Marking a timber harvest correctly is a complicated task.  Don’t let anyone tell you different!  There are a lot of points to consider if you want to do it right.  And the long- term affects can be devastating to your forest if it is done incorrectly.  Completing a harvest is the single most important thing you can do in your forest to affect its growth and quality, and to accomplish your management objective.  So what should be considered when marking a harvest?A forester begins marking a harvest by asking a series of questions. 

Some of these questions include:§         What kind of trees exists in this forest?

§         What are the biological and ecological limitations of the forest?

§         What environmental constraints need be considered?

§         When will the next harvest occur?

§         Are there special considerations that need to be addressed?

In applied Forestry, trees are selected for harvest not only on their individual characteristics, but also with consideration to their relationship to the entire forest.  First, each tree in the forest is considered separately.  What is the condition of the tree, it’s health and vigor, it’s future earning potential, and it’s quality and value?  Is this the kind of tree that needs to grow in the forest to accomplish a management objective?  Will the tree remain in the same condition or improve its condition by the next harvest?

As each tree is individually considered, it needs to be viewed in relationship to the forest.  How does that tree influence the adjacent trees if it is cut now or left to grow?  This is probably the most complicated part of the marking job, since a considerable amount of knowledge is needed to make the correct conclusion.  Applying this knowledge, along with experience is the art of silviculture.  Silviculture is the science of producing and tending a forest from beginning to end.

The size of the tree is one of the last things to consider when choosing trees to harvest.  Unfortunately, this is usually the number one or only criterion used in many timber sales.  To most people it stands to reason that when a tree reaches a certain size, it should be labeled mature and removed from the forest to give younger trees room to grow.

But in Indiana’s complex forest ecosystems, cutting trees using only diameter is often detrimental to the existing trees, and the residual forest following the cut.  The resulting forest is usually left in an unproductive condition, substantially reducing its future productivity.  Often the larger trees are faster growing and genetically superior trees in the forest.  These trees are usually the most desirable species.  The remaining smaller trees are frequently of low quality, grow slow, and seldom increase substantially in value.  The smaller, inferior trees will often dominate a forest, preventing desirable and vigorous trees from developing.

Using only diameter to choose trees for harvest can remove trees that are not economically mature.  That is, they have not reached their maximum economic value.    As a tree matures, it adds knot free wood.  This “clear” wood increases both in volume and quality, which together add economic value to the tree.  Immature trees are often in their prime growth and have not fully developed their potential economic value.  If these trees are cut prematurely, their potential value and benefit to the stand will never be realized.

 

So!  What can be done to insure that the right trees are marked for harvest?

 

§         Become informed!

What do you have?

What are your management options?

§         Define your objectives for the forest!

What do you want?

§         Get professional help

Use the services of a professional forester.

Knowing your management objectives and accomplishing them for the development of your forest is what successful forest stewardship management is all about.  It often takes years of carefully applied conservation practices before those objectives are fully realized.  Usually, more than one option exists for maintaining the health and sustainability of the forest.  As the owner, you should explore these options with your forester and select actions that best fulfill your long-term goals.

One approach toward having a multiple-use objective, is to grow quality, high valued trees throughout the forest.  High quality trees of diverse species will help to meet many landowner objectives, such as aesthetics, wildlife habitat improvement, watershed production, and timber production for periodic income.  It’s important to keep in mind, you can’t know your objectives until you know what you are trying to manage.

A lot to think about?  Let us together walk your forest and discuss timber management.  We can save you a lot of time, trouble, and money.  Give us a call!