|Thinking About a Timber Harvest?|
Forests and supermodels have two things in common. They are fiercely competitive and have a desire to be thin. If you are considering a timber harvest, there can be benefits for both your wildlife and your wallet, but the growth stage of the timber and proper timing are the keys to success.
Nearly all timber harvesting methods produce wildlife benefits when applied correctly. The main idea is that any time you remove trees, light is allowed to reach the forest floor. This generates a lot of herbaceous growth, and that is good for wildlife.
Whether you are harvesting pine or hardwoods, or doing a complete clearcut or single tree removal, consultation with a professional forester is the best way to make sure you meet your wildlife and financial objectives. It is also a good idea to create a written timber sale contract. To the landowner new to selling timber, it can be an intimidating process. You might only sell timber a couple of times in your lifetime, but the buyer is experienced. Research the market and make a timber harvesting plan created well in advance of your harvest sell.
Plentiful Pines or Present Profits
When foresters look at a stand of timber, they are looking to achieve a target density for tree growth instead of simply the number of trees to be removed. If you are thinning planted pine, the third row thinning method is most common. This is where you take out every third row of pines and select a few trees out of non-cut rows.
The age at which a stand of pines should be thinned is generally 15 to 20 years old. Thinning should be carried out in pines as soon as the young trees reach a commercially marketable size, and this first thin is almost always used for pulpwood. For pine, the average stem diameter should be at least six to eight inches.
Whether you decide to thin or clearcut depends on the age and health of the stand of trees. If the trees are near the end of their natural lifespan or starting to deteriorate due to insect or disease problems, then clearcutting and regenerating the stand would be the best way to go. If the trees have reached their stage of most value and you are looking only at economic return, final harvest and regeneration may be the best way to go.
The bottom line for the landowner is deciding how to balance the financial return of the timber with the current wildlife holding quality of the stand. If the landowner is more interested in wildlife and beauty of the forest instead of just the simple economics of selling trees, thinning the forest is a better option. You may have some loblolly pines well past their economic maturity, but they may serve as roost trees for gobblers on your property. In this case, the wildlife objective might take precedence over the economics.
Hardwoods to Hang on to
When you are thinning hardwoods with wildlife in mind, you would want to remove the less desirable trees like sweetgum, red maple, and yellow poplar. You will want to leave the trees with higher wildlife value like oaks and persimmons.
The biggest problem faced in hardwood forests is epicormic sprouting. This is when forests are thinned and hardwoods begin sprouting branches lower on the trunks. This sprouting of the sides of the trunk can lower the value of your sawtimber. In hardwood forests, you want to avoid opening up too much sunlight.
When you are planning to thin your hardwood forests, be mindful of the hollow trees. They serve as den trees for raccoons, woodpeckers, owls and other wildlife. If you have ground nesting birds such as quail and wild turkey, you might want to consider removing den trees.
Keep the SMZs
SMZs are streamside management zones acting as borders around creeks and streams. In any timber harvesting operation, the zones are to be left intact to protect the stream from erosion, overheating from additional sunlight, and provide cover and travel corridors for wildlife. Alabama has what’s known as Best Management Practices that must be followed to protect the SMZs.
Time to Sell
When it comes time to sell your timber, the Alabama Forestry Commission has a handy five step plan for selling your timber harvest. Go to www.forestry.state.al.us. Then click under the Fast Links on the topic, Selling Your Timber-Guide. In summary, the steps are:
1) Hire a registered forester or consultant to help with planning and sale of timber.
2) Develop a Forest Management Plan.
3) Do some pre-harvest planning.
4) Determine a selling method of either negotiation or sealed bid. Your forester can help with this step.
5) Have a contract which includes timber description, marked boundaries and corners, and how the timber will be sold like a lump sum basis or a per unit basis.
Resources for Timber Harvesting
A professional forester is your best source of information when harvesting timber with wildlife in mind. Your forester can tell you about programs like WHIP or EQIP; both of these programs are available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. You can also monitor timber prices through a paid service called TimberMart South or your local forester can help you find a buyer if you are not experienced in selling timber.
If you are planning a timber harvest, create your wildlife and financial objectives well in advance of your cutting date. This gives you the opportunity to follow the timber markets and sell when prices are favorable.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.