During the last few years I have been offering low impact logging and timber management. I really enjoy my work and love the looks on clients’ faces when they find out they make more money for their timber this way and still get to cut it every 5-10 years forever. I also love when people watch my horse and winch skidding and I also like to answer questions. But lately big timber companies are telling people clear cutting and heavy harvesting are fine and don't hurt property value but the truth is more it doesn't hurt it but it doesn't improve it. Low impact management is proven to raise value and help prevent loss of woodlands. Does anyone else think like me or have these thoughts?
From contributor C:
As former director for wood products for the state of Kentucky, I studied this issue at length over the past few years. I came to this conclusion, you are both right, the large scale and the low impact. It all depends on the quality of the stand of timber, the desired outcome, and what the future plans for the property are. There really isn't any "one" right answer.
It all depends on where you are located, the topography of the land, the amount of timber to be harvested, and what the owner wants to do with their low grade, and how badly they need money. There are pros and cons for both types of logging. It all depends on the desired outcomes as to which is the most practical, and which will have the highest value at the end of the job.
Much of the spruce needs to be gone through and logged as there already is a fair amount of red rot. Some of the birch is nearing the end of its life expectancy and needs to be taken off. So far this winter I have taken out about 25,000 ft of saw logs and still taken out more as long as the weather holds up. I have not even made a dent into what needs to be gone through yet as I have probably gone over about 15-20 acres. Young trees are growing rather well and by the looks of it I should not have to plant any new seedlings. I am only using a small tractor and a chainsaw to log but would still rather use horses to log it off as they would leave only minimal damage to the new growth coming up. Access is another big thing with this land due to swampy and low lying land thus giving the horses a better thumbs up. I would not have a large scale outfit come in to do any of the work as they cause too much damage and they also want to clear cut everything. I want to leave the forest in better shape than when I entered - it is way better for everything even the wildlife.
Any type of timber harvesting (skidder or horse) done on wet soils has the potential for serious soil compaction. Assuming the worst case, multiple light cuts done poorly over 60 years could actually be worse than one poorly done heavy cut.
Another factor to consider is the history of the property. If the woods has a fire history and most of the trees have basal fire scars, then a heavy cut may be necessary to start the woods over again with healthy young trees.
I don't mean to play devil’s advocate, I am just throwing out a few of the many issues related to the type of timber harvesting performed. It really becomes a site specific recommendation based on the owner's short and long term objectives combined with the forest and its composition.
So as not to generalize, some large timber companies can and do perform quality work. I have marked some light selective cuts for landowners that were harvested exceptionally well by the crews of large timber companies.
Keep up the good work for your clients. I wish every logger had the same concern you have about doing a great job for both the owner and the land.
I think both loggers and foresters have a responsibility to educate landowners correctly. It is very easy to high-grade a stand of timber using selective cutting and then give the unknowing landowner the impression that good management was performed. In almost all cases of selective cutting, timber stand improvement is needed after the harvest to remove culls, 3/4 culls, very crooked trees, grapevines, etc. Most loggers don't touch this stuff as they can't stay profitable messing with it.
As an example, I looked at a woods in western KY where the landowner wanted to selectively cut the larger trees in his woods and make a little money. He mentioned to me that the area behind the ditch had not been cut and should contain some big trees. So I look at it and find that all of the woods were high-graded 10-15 years ago. The big oaks had been "selectively" cut and now the forest consisted of mostly sweetgum, red maple, and ash and was really too small to be cut again. So I tell my client that what is needed now is TSI for a planned harvest 15 years down the road. He said he was not interested in investing any money and that he would probably just let it grow.
So from my perspective, the logger who carried out the last harvest only removed the largest and highest value trees and left the junk. Obviously, this is not good forest management. This type of practice is very commonly called "Selective" or "Low Impact" or "Small Scale" timber management.
Unless there are standards of conduct and education in the logging and forestry community, then examples like the one I mention will only continue. To any landowners reading this, I recommend you get advice from as many different sources as possible before making any forestry or logging decisions on your property.