Question (WOODWEB Member) :
Remember the "CCC" camps developed back in the day? Well a boy that was in one of those camps (and then went to war) came home and planted this land with red pine in the same manor they did back in camp. Good intentions, however since then there has not been any sort of woodlot management. So now I have 60 plus year old red pine that for the most part are still alive. They are no more than eight feet apart. What I have noticed in the last few years is that some are falling over. The trees are very tall and maybe 12-14 " in diameter. What do I do to thin these out and how do I thin these out? What is the proper spacing, etc.? As you can imagine the floor is very soft and a concern would be if I do remove (thin) would this make the remaining more susceptible to falling during a major wind storm etc.?
From contributor W:
If you don't thin them they will die and fall over anyway. If they are averaging 12" in diameter I suggest that you thin them down to about 100 square feet of basal area - that is about 120 trees/acre that would remain after thinning. Perfectly spaced, the trees would be 19' apart. However, we usually do not thin 60 year old trees. They are way past their prime for thinning. This stand is pretty much mature, and the subsequent growth after thinning will be slow. Less than inflation or what a CD can earn.
Have you thought about cutting them all and starting over with a vigorous, fast growing new stand of trees? Maybe you are not concerned about economics. In that case, thinning will help. If you are managing the stand for an economic return, you might consider a final harvest and re-plant. I would be conservative on the thinning. Taking too many out would leave the remaining trees susceptible to windthrow or they may bow over if the crowns are very small. I would normally thin a growing stand to a much lower basal area, but yours is already 60 years old and probably stagnant.
Without seeing this plantation, I disagree with going down to 100ft/acre because I imagine the current basal area is much higher. The BA should be reduced to no more than 1/3 so to not shock the other trees. Also, keep in mind the prevailing wind direction if removing two or more adjacent trees (not removing clumps will help reduce the windthrow potential). If possible, hiring a forester to mark the trees for removal is a wise decision.
Red pine is in fact of the more economically valuable softwood species in the lake states because of its straight bole/little-taper/fast growth characteristics, if there's a market for the wood. Obviously, that goes for every type of wood. Plus, it is a hard pine. Depending on where you are in Michigan, you may not have a hard time finding a local sawmill interested in buying the wood. That would likely be the best choice for my area these days.