The first question you should ask yourself is “Am I serious about maximizing my property’s benefit for wildlife?”. If the answer is “Yes”, then the second question is “How can I accomplish this task without using my child’s college fund to do so?”. In this two-part post, we will discuss two options for completing this task while putting a little change in your pocket and gaining the benefits of quality habitat for your property’s wildlife. This post focuses on a little used tool in Appalachia these days – selective harvest timbering.
In the second post, we discuss government partnerships and how they fit into the land owner arsenal. Let’s start with the current situation in Appalachia.
Appalachia is made up primarily of hardwood forests. In many cases, large stands of mature timber provide a beautiful fall canopy and a quiet place to walk on a sunny day. Critics of timbering often speak of the damage it causes to the terrain and how ugly it leaves the forest. Many people want a mature forest with an open forest floor where you can see deer, squirrels and other forest animals for hundreds of yards. They like the beautiful mature oaks and stands of beech or walnut shading the forest floor. Yes, it is beautiful, and it is easy to see the animals for a long distance, but it in no way provides year-round habitat for wildlife. All mature forests are not what nature intended.
The Way of the Woods
Nature intended forests to be burned, trees to be blown down and broken. Wildfires caused by lightning strikes, beavers cutting down trees, wet weather and winds uprooting trees are natural occurrences in a forest’s life. Nature is messy, and the wildlife is designed to use the thick understory of a mixed canopy forest to thrive.
You only have to reference the 2004 Appalachian Cooperative Grouse Research Project or any whitetail deer habitat study to see the loss of wildlife habitat. These studies will highlight the reasons why you have trouble finding a grouse in Appalachia these days, and, in most of our mature forests you can see a clear deer browse line where little plant biomass remains.
Folks will complain about deer eating their plants and flowers, but we continue to allow our forests to “look nice and provide little” to those deer. We protect our forests from fire, mature trees protect the forest from wind-storms, so animals have no discernible understory to live off of. For our wildlife, it is very much like the quote “water, water everywhere, without a drop to drink”.
Man-Made Nature Support
Selective harvest timbering does what nature intended – it removes trees from the canopy allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor. It creates “edges” in the forest where deer, bear, grouse, song birds, turkey, etc…can feed and most importantly, raise their young hidden from predators.
When trees are removed from the forest canopy, the forest floor comes alive with flora and fauna conducive to wildlife. Yes, the forest after selective harvest timbering is a hollow shell of its former self. Likewise, nature is destructive. After a big wind storm or fire there are tree tops lying about, old trails are blocked and piles of limbs everywhere. This disruption is what promotes quality wildlife habitat.
The Rant is Over:
Back to My Point – Selective Harvest Timbering
Yes, I am a fan of selective harvest timbering. The practice benefits both landowner and wildlife.
In our case, we are using funds received from our timbering to cover property improvements. This source of funding, in addition to the funding I cover in part two, allows us to continue our wildlife management practices on our property. It covers the purchase of new equipment, seeds, fertilizer and other soil enhancements.
It is amazing how much money can be earned from a 35-40 acre woodlot. Additionally, sharing your wildlife management goals with your timber cutting crew will also help achieve your planned end-state for habitat and save you time and effort, as well as put more money in your pocket.
Call A Timber Crew Today
As of 10 March 2018, a thousand board feet of red oak in our region is worth $550 and a veneer quality log is nearly triple that price.
Take the time to survey your timber or contact a professional forester. They can give you an idea of the value of your timber and what to expect from the timber company and provide a start point for negotiations with your timber cutters.
Ask for references or visit the company’s past work sites to assess their over-seeding, erosion control, and waste management. Once you have chosen a timber crew, go over your plan with them and allow them to show you how they can assist with those goals.
In the end, the positive gains of a selective timber harvest are money to fund your habitat improvement efforts and the quality habitat created by a mixed forest landscape. In part two of this post we discuss how to establish a partnership with your state and/or federal government to continue your march toward achieving wildlife management goals.