What Crosses Foresters Minds When Accessing a Wood Lot

A forester's job starts before they even step foot onto any wood lot. Often, this begins with the forester discussing with the landowner what their goals and objectives for the lot are, and what plans they have for the future. What is their outlook on the property? When was it last harvested? Will the lot be kept in the family or sold? Or it could even be about certain hardwood species concerns. Such as a landowner wanting to harvest all of the Ash on their property ahead of the Emerald Ash Borer.

While there are numerous other thoughts and considerations that a forester makes, here are a few thoughts from some of our Foresters on what they look for when they are marking trees in the name of promoting responsible forest management.  DSC5922

Looking for the Good and the Bad. When foresters enter the woods, they aren’t necessarily always looking for the biggest and best trees all the time. Sometimes, part of responsible forest management is selecting trees that have flaws and harvesting them before they hit a state of decline.  

For example, a Hard Maple tree that may have a basil wound, dead limbs up in the crown, or scars from sugar maple borer may be a tree that is worth selecting because it helps to manage the stand properly and can also produce quality lumber before it is on its way out.  

Stumps. It typically takes 40 years for tree stumps to decompose. If a forester enters a woodlot and notices that it is bereft of decomposing stumps, they know that the lot has not been harvested from in quite some time. This is a great time for a forester to use their experience and knowledge to mark the wood lot to ensure long term success of the timber stand.  

Indicator Species. Sometimes these indicator species can show the potential for very good tree growth in that area.  For example, Maiden Hair fern is sometimes an indicator species for high-quality silver back maple.  

Selecting one tree over another. What might be a reason a Forester would choose to mark one tree over another? Many times it can be to allow the superior tree to pass on its genetics to the next generation and improve the forest. For example, a forester sees two trees of the same species in close proximity to each other and are around the same age. One tree maybe 17 inches in diameter, and the other 20 inches in diameter. The forester may reach the conclusion that the 20-inch tree is genetically superior, and the 17-inch tree would be marked because it wasn’t able to out-compete the other tree.  

Tree Spacing. Tree spacing is part of Species Management. While walking through the lot foresters take note of the species that are in these woods, Red Oak, White Oak, Hard Maple, Soft Maple, etc., and what would be the best way to manage them ensure the long-term health of the hardwood species in that forest. 

We want to optimize the growth of the residual stand after we are done thinning. This requires spacing the trees evenly throughout the stand to optimize the amount of sunlight they can intercept which correlates to better tree growth based on shade tolerance or intolerances.   

Sound timber management and good lumber production does not have to be mutually exclusive. A skilled forester can determine which trees should be taken out today and left for tomorrow as he/she is marking. With the ultimate goal being the success of the forest.

Brett Del Prince
Baillie Lumber
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