Should I harvest lumber

mattkalmanApril 12, 2014

I have over 20 acres of woodland on my property in upstate New York. A guy came by, walked my woods with me and said that I could make a few thousand by responsibly harvesting some of the bigger trees. He said it would be good for the health of the forest as well. Is this true? Can selective harvesting of less than half of my mature growth be good for the woods?

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Matt, I know nothing about forestry, but I just happened to have checked out a fascinating book from the library called Growing Trees from Seed, by Henry Kock. In it he says:

"Forests are still being trashed by irresponsible forestry operators or high-graded by unscrupulous log buyers arriving on rural doorsteps with checkbook in hand."

"Ecological forestry, as practiced in its best form, takes pride in carefully selecting only trees that are starting to decline and even leaving some of those for predator habitat. It leaves the healthiest trees standing to produce the best seeds for renewing the forest. Future forestry, practiced in this way, should involve no tree planting at all."

Of course, it all depends on what your intention was when you got the land. In any case, this is one opinion for you to think about.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 8:25PM
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Kat mentions some important points, among them the unwise practice of "highgrading" which consists of harvesting only the largest and best stems from the stand. Doing this has the tendency to systematically remove the best genetics, not always, but too often. If one knows that the smaller trees in their woods are that way because they are simply younger, this issue would not apply. But to simply remove the biggest and best stuff could gravitate towards high grading, I'm afraid. Once enough folks decided clearcutting was a bad thing-it's not always-then a wave of size-selection swept across the land, and this was indeed high grading in many cases. I hope this gives you something to think about.

Even in so simple a system as a pine plantation, I've seen huge benefits to doing periodic thinnings, but only if the poorest and smallest stock was removed, not the biggest and most valuable. In the scenario I outline here, the biggest and best are then allowed to grow on and attain even greater size and value, the very opposite of high grading.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 2:30PM
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