Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Sustainable Living and Land use › Sustainable Forestry › Woods management practices
- October 24, 2008 at 3:18 am #39853416JonnyParticipant
I have been wondering about some differences in goals of forest management.
From what I’ve been reading, the goals of recent sustainable harvest is under the idea of “worst first”. Harvesting the less desirable trees for cut timber, so as to allow more valuable timber to mature. Aiming for more of the virgin forests our country had all over the place. Seems to make sense.
This seems to me to be coming from a timber harvest perspective. One of the other views that some take comes from one of my favorite activities, hunting.
Many land owners practice an almost reverse notion under the premise of game improvement. Cutting the larger trees to allow seedlings to grow, giving game (namely deer) a more suitable environment to grow.
What impact does removing the mature trees do to the forest and it’s inhabitants?
The family land next to the Andrus farm has roughly 15+ acres that are currently forested. While there were always (in any living memory) trees present, only in the last three generations there abouts has it really grown up into woods. There is some very large, very old trees up on the hill, however these were former shade trees from long ago. Kind of strange to be walking through the woods and see a tree wider than a number of the trees around it are tall.
Any suggestions for thinning or harvesting with the long term goal being lumber, most specifically for timber framing? There is a great assortment of oak, iron wood, some black locust (my favorite), smaller maples and lots of shagbark hickory (another wood I like). One of the shorter term goals is for firewood. I wouldn’t begin doing any cutting anything until maybe a year or more from now.
Jonny B.October 24, 2008 at 3:25 am #47772416JonnyParticipant
Oops, left something out.
I’ve told a few people I know about this, so I thought this would be a good place to mention it as well.
The Wild Turkey Federation gives away free oak seedlings to private land owners. You have to be a member ($30), get in touch with them and go from there. This year they gave away between 5,000-10,000 seedlings per state to private land owners.
My uncle also said the American Chestnut Association (I think?) gives away free seedlings as well. Trying to bring them back.
Okay, that’s all. I think……
Jonny B.October 24, 2008 at 11:56 am #47770Gabe AyersKeymaster
Having been the first person to my knowledge to use the term “worst first” many years ago – in defense of the blanket accusation by conventional foresters that all horse loggers were high graders, I would submit other considerations to include what we consider restorative forestry management.
Yes “Restorative Forestry” is based upon taking the “worst first” single tree selection and the resulting development of the best species and specimens on a site specific basis informed by science and common sense.
The consideration of forest management practices for any one specific goal is denying or overlooking that the forest is a wonderful interconnected ecosystem that functions as a living interdependent system where all the parts are positively contributing to the whole of a healthy forest. This resulting condition created through active management will certainly create conditions conducive to “wildlife presence”, of all kinds, not just the deer, bear and turkey.
Your particular forest seems to be a regenerated field that once had wolf trees left as agriculture was abandoned and the natural forested conditions
regenerated itself around this residuals of the past practices. We see this in the forest all the time even in Appalachia. Usually the big old wolf trees are sitting on a rock or rock pile and were left because they were not easily mowed down or tilled in the practices of agriculture. I can imagine the pleasure of resting yourself and animals in the shade of one these when working a homestead many years ago…
It becomes a difficult decision as to when or if to harvest of cut the big wolf trees. I would suggest applying the same considerations we use in the Nature’s Tree Marking Paint indicator system fleshed out in the writing on this subject and title on our web site (address below). Since they obviously have poor form in the structure of the tree being far more limb than stem they are not growing great timber value despite their age or species. But at the same time they may be providing a great seed source for the regeneration of that species in a more natural forested spacing that will produce good timber in the future forested conditions. In Virginia the only law that applied to forestry historically was the seed tree law, which said that one mature seed bearing tree should be left per acre to help regenerate the forest. This may also be the case in Mass. We do harvest these trees when they have three or more indicators of the NTMP’s system and find that they may have a very valuable
butt cut and then a massive amount of limbs and low grade logs thereafter.
They also create a massive hole in the canopy when felled and usually create some damage to the residual regeneration when they hit the ground. They also are famous for standing up on the limbs, or would that be sitting up on the limbs and being very difficult and dangerous to get to the ground to create logs out of. It takes real skill to read the lean of these trees and equal skill to fell them where they will cause the least damage to the residual trees.
In our region these trees are often true white oak. The butts are usually great for quarter sawing highly figured wood from. The acorns are the choice mast for all wildlife, but that wildlife food will continue to be created by the seedlings, saplings and younger trees in the area that are the babies of these
big wolf trees. The amount of firewood available from one of these big old mama’s could heat a home for a year at least. Just be sure you know what you are doing when you fell it as the mechanics of that task are important to
understand to provide operator safety….
So these are a few thoughts about wolf trees. Again some landowner’s in our country have a particularly deep attraction to these old large trees for their beauty and when they do and specifically communicate that attraction to them, we simply leave them. The landowner makes the decision easy by attaching such a high culture value to an individual tree. In my own forest, they are gone….and their genetics are still present. After forty years or so of doing this work of restorative forestry we have seen this condition frequently.
I would suggest felling them in winter (leaf off) as they do provide some lesser species habitat during the growing season, such as canopy nesting migratory birds, and cavity dwellers…
The post harvest conditions rapidly (relative to the age of the wolf tree) return to a more natural well spaced and populated forest and the stumps of these old giants often grow wonderful edible mushrooms, such as chicken of the woods, hen of the woods and oyster. The very presence of these old dominants supply some unplowed (never turned) ground that could recolonize the entire forest with beneficial organisms.
The challenge is to get folks to walk through their woods in order to find the free food there….as well as be educated about what it actually is.
Good luck, enjoy your woods any way you can….October 25, 2008 at 7:09 pm #47771Carl RussellModerator
Some things to remember are that wildlife management is different than game management. The wildlife species that we tend to want to hunt are not specifically forest denizens. Turkeys, white-tail deer, ruffed grouse, and snowshoe hare, all thrive on a mosaic of grassland and forest, with their most preferred habitat being early stage transitional forest. As the forest matures it offers advantages as cover to many other species, and not so much for our game animals. This is not to say that managing for game is bad, it just should be recognized that a mature forest, managed to provide longterm benefits of a forested ecosystem will not meet the goals of white-tail hunters. (Moose hunters, more likely)
Another thing to point out is that “worst first” does not necessarily refer to the trees that are cut, as to the trees that are left. In other words, leave the best. Or looking at it a bit differently, harvest the trees that are competing with the best. In this way, not all trees need to be cut, only the ones that are in direct competition with identified crop trees (trees left to grow). In the case of the old wolfers, if there is no direct benefit to neighboring trees, then they may not need to be cut. The ones that should be removed could be girdled, and allowed to die standing there, providing another tier of habitat as they fall down in pieces over several years.
When choosing crop trees, you can look to all diameters present, finding the best future stand, and growing it. Un-even aged stands can be difficult to manage, precisely because huge trees tend to compromise a lot of subordinate trees in their understory, especially when it comes time to harvest. It is always challenging to come into a stand that has not had any work done to it for years, as many times, they are out of balance, and it will require a period of time to institute some protocol that you can adhere to advance you goals.
Cutting fuelwood is a great place to start, because it will give you a chance to start releasing your quality stems and it can be a long term product of a hardwood stand. As you remove your low grade stems, you immediately increase the value of the residual stand. This is an important factor in sustainable harvest, because when there is more high quality stems in a forest, the harvesting is more profitable, therefore the harvests can be lighter, and more often. This will be important especially if you are intending to supply material for construction, as you will not want to harvest ahead of yourself, removing trees before you have an intended use. Harvesting more often also allows you to create a continuum of forest transition, where you can provide areas of early succession to establish new regeneration for the future stand, at the same time benefiting your game species.
One last point. As far as the reverse strategy of cutting the large trees first, it is one of the most misdirected habits of our modern culture. If you had two bank accounts, one with $5 @ 6% and the other with $15 @ 20%, which would you close out?? It happens all the time, because people see trees as commodities, and not as assets. If you grow the trees that have the most quantity and highest quality, you will develop a forest that will provide significant regular and longterm return. If you are constantly selling the best trees when they become marketable, you will never have a forest that produces adequately, and you will be motivated to over-utilize it, making it worse.
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