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Effective Woodlot Management (part 2)

The Forest Management Plan: by Jeffrey S Nichols



            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, natural disturbances due to wind throw, fire, insect and disease outbreak, etc.  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 date 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 provides 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 long term, 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 revegetation of disturbed areas provide for a complete job and stabilizes the soil of 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”.

If you missed part 1 of Effective Woodlot Management - Pennsylvania's Forests Growing at a Rapid Rate, be sure to check it out here.



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