from Northern Tier Hardwood Association July 2014 Newsletter:

 

Woodlot Management

By Jeffrey S. Nichols

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has nearly 17 million acres of forest land. Two thirds of the forest land in Pennsylvania is owned by non-industrial private landowners/individuals and families.

Pennsylvania is the nation’s number one producer of hardwood lumber, accounting for about 10 percent of the total hardwood lumber output in the United States. Thus, the forest products industry is an essential element of the Pennsylvania economy. Trees to make our wood and paper products are a renewable resource. In Pennsylvania our forests are growing at a rate more than twice the rate of harvest. We currently have more saw timber volume (large quality trees that are manufactured into lumber) in our forests now than 50 years ago.

Northeastern Pennsylvania is the home of a robust forest economy where a wide range of hardwood trees thrive and grow. The forests of this nation have been providing significant economic, consumer, environmental and aesthetic benefits for centuries. In the interest of assuring the long term health and productivity of these forests for future generations, we must have a comprehensive plan to be used as means of managing our renewable resource. As a result, the practice of sustainable forestry became a key initiative in providing direction for foresters and forest landowners in implementing forest practices and managing forests.

Sustainable forestry can be defined as ”meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs by practicing a land stewardship ethic which integrates the reforestation, managing, growing, nurturing and harvesting of trees for useful products with the conservation of soil, air and water quality, wildlife and fish habitat, and aesthetics.” ”Your woodlot is valuable, manage it wisely.” This is not only a slogan at Deer Park Lumber, Inc. located in Tunkhannock, PA, it is a philosophy we have followed over the years in managing our own company lands, but also the lands of private landowners as well. Your woodlot is valuable in so many ways. Its care and management must be well thought out and timely. Managing a woodlot can be challenging, however, it is also extremely rewarding. Forests provide us with so many benefits: clean air, quality water, wood products, wildlife habitat (food and cover), abundant outdoor recreational opportunities and spiritual renewal just to name a few. The forest ecosystem, of which your woodlot is a part of, is extremely diverse and complex. As a forester, I could practice the art and science of forestry for many lifetimes and still be learning more and managing the resource better. Time takes time — growing and managing the resource takes time, effort, knowledge and flexibility to meet the changes which take place within the forest over time. As a professional forester, I serve as a guide to the forest landowner and the timber harvester. Ultimately, it is the wants and needs of the landowner that are paramount in what management decisions are considered and what practices are adopted to manage a woodlot and keep it productive. As a forester, I can give you plenty of sound, practical and scientific knowledge regarding your woodlot, but it is your objectives for ownership and your willingness to take action and follow the forest management plan that will bring you the satisfaction and rewards of ownership.

For most non-industrial private forest landowners in Pennsylvania, the woodlot came with the property as part of the homestead or hunting property. Most didn’t purchase the property thinking the wood or timber and its management would also bring financial rewards. For most landowners we interact with, the wildlife resource and outdoor recreational opportunities are very important objectives for owning the land. Both of these objectives can be enhanced with proper woodlot management. Well planned access roads and forest trails provide enjoyment to the owners of forest land.complex, but it needs to be a plan that serves as a guide for the landowner. The forest management plan outlines for the landowner a plan that chronicles current forest conditions and suggests certain forest practices to follow over time to meet your landowner objectives. It is a dynamic document — a blue print of sorts — that is subject to change as forest health issues arise, such as natural disturbances due to wind throw, fire, insect and disease outbreak.

The forest management plan should be written by a professional forester or forest technician trained at an accredited college or university whose experience, education and observations are used to guide their actions and conclusions.

Forestry is an art and a science — the science of the forest ecology and the art of applying practices that mimic natural disturbances to tend, grow and enhance the forest and natural environment.

After meeting with the landowner and discussing ownership objectives, the next step for the forester is a forest inventory of the woodlot. The forester assesses the attributes of the forest and collects data on species composition, quantity and quality of forest products currently in the timber stand. He looks at the age of the stand, competing vegetation, advanced regeneration, soil types, slope and aspect and the predominant plant type in each layer of the forest canopy. The inventory is essential to the forest management plan and is necessary for prescribing forest practices now and into the future. Forest stands (trees of similar size, age, type, quality and natural characteristics) are identified and quantified in the inventory. For each stand, the forester will analyze the data collected in the field and prescribe treatments based on the inventory data. These treatments can be prescribed for the various canopy levels. The idea is to enhance the forest and meet the short and long term objectives of ownership.

The idea of using forest practices is to mimic the natural disturbances that usually occur over the life of the forest, using various practices to adjust species composition, competing vegetation, spacing, which influences light conditions, and nutrient availability, enhancing the growth of trees that are desirable to the long term objectives of the landowner.

The one tool we use is timber harvesting. Timber harvesting is the most effective tool in growing, tending and nurturing the woodlot, making it periodically productive for income and enhancing its growth potential for future products and benefits. Harvesting trees in the woodlot also benefits wildlife populations. Harvesting increases habitat and enhances many species of wildlife that depend and thrive on various states of forest growth from your brush stage forests to developing saplings and pole stage stands through mature forests, all providing food and cover for a myriad of wildlife species.

Wildlife populations love diversity of habitat and disturbance, which provide diversity. On the individual woodlot, once the prescription is articulated by the forester, the practice can be scheduled and implemented by the landowner, forester and timber harvester. An important part of this process is marking the trees to be harvested following the guidelines set forth in the prescription. Tree selection is the most important process. The forester marks the trees to be harvested using tree marking paint, marking the tree at near ground level and at breast height. Trees to be harvested are generally of various sizes and throughout the diameter size ranges of trees within the timber stand.

In a truly sustainable harvest, all the represented diameter classes have trees that are designated for harvest. Often trees that are small, of poor form and species are removed to improve the growth of more desirable residual trees and improve the availability of light, water and nutrients to the remaining trees. If someone wants to remove just your higher quality trees without regard to removing the lower quality, poorly formed and undesirable species, do not retain this person.

It is necessary when practicing proper forest management and sustainable forestry to forego instant gratification and the lure of liquidating the biggest and best trees in the woodlot for a better long term approach that provides more income longterm, better quality trees and improved forest health. That is why to this end, tree selection is so important to practicing sustainable forestry and enhancing your woodlot.

Once the trees are marked for harvest, the timber harvest can be scheduled. Use a professional timber harvester with a good reputation and professional training to harvest the woodlot. The forester can monitor the job as the process of harvesting is implemented. Between the professional harvester and the forester, who both know the value of properly preparing forest products from standing timber into a high use product for market, the best value can be obtained for the landowner.

Prior to the harvest the forester prepares an Erosion and Sedimentation Plan which outlines the logging plan, identifies soil types, details the area of disturbance and outlines the restoration of disturbed areas. Restoring the disturbed soil is extremely important. Providing proper drainage of road systems and log landings and the re-vegetation of disturbed areas provide for a complete job and stabilizes the soil on the site.

It is also important that the forester monitors your forest after the harvest on a periodic basis to keep track of forest health issues and forest conditions which may necessitate adjusting the management plan.

Practicing sustainable forestry in your woodlot offers many rewards and benefits. It allows you to meet your objectives of ownership and gives the satisfaction of knowing you are doing the right thing for the health and well being of your woodlot. Remember, ”Your Woodlot Is Valuable, Manage It Wisely.”

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Northern Tier Hardwood Association is a non-profit organization serving the wood industry and its supporters throughout Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne, and Wyoming counties of Pennsylvania. We at NTHA take great pride in providing our members and surrounding community with worthwhile programs.  Visit www.nthardwoods.org for more information.