LFA names Franklin 'Tree Farmer of Year'
Billy Franklin, left and RMrs. Ottie Franklin, with sons Cole & John, at the
family Tree Farm in Desoto Parish.

Billy Franklin of Grand Cane is the 2014 Louisiana Outstanding Tree Farmer for his 580-acre tree farm located in DeSoto Parish. The award was made during the annual convention of the Louisiana Forestry Association (LFA) Aug. 27 in Shreveport.

Franklin walks in the footsteps of his father, Bernard, who also won the award in 1992 but died before receiving it. Billy Franklin's degrees in animal science and his career as an Extension agent and with Louisiana Seed Company also prepared him to take over the family business of cattle, timber, oil and gas production.

"I think he is probably the best steward of the land that I know," said forester Danny Wells who nominated him for the award. Billy has an employee that helps with the day to day operations but even at age 80, he spends about four hours every day cruising the tree farm.

Timber, wildlife and recreation/hunting are the three main objectives of his forestland. He also has gas wells that date back to 1974 but more were added when the Haynesville Shale hit. The process of hydraulic fracturing requires great quantities of water and the Franklins built a pond on the cattle farm to sell the water to the drilling company. It's one of four stocked ponds located on the two farms.

Billy Franklin is mindful of the needs of the wildlife on the property carefully peserving streamside management zones that promote wildlife habitat. One effective practice is to leave hardwood buffers that allow deer to travel from one water source to another.

Though deer were once scarce, the numbers have rebounded. Family hunts are a popular pastime to the Franklins.

Billy and his wife, Ottie, live on the property and sons John and Cole Franklin are now part of the family business. "The day-to-day operation is Dad's," said son John who is a teacher in Winona, Texas. Cole, who is also a teacher, and his wife and children live on the family cattle farm, home to about 100 cross-bred Angus and Brahman cattle.

"Forestry is now a $4.2 billion industry in Louisiana," said C.A. "Buck" Vandersteen, LFA executive director. "The legacy of tree farmers like Billy Franklin is a solid future for Louisiana's forestry community."