Forestry 101: How much management?

By Tim Holland

Trees are a crop, just like corn, cotton and soybeans, but take a good bit longer to reach financial maturity than within a year.

Once plating pine seedlings for a client who was in his mid-90s, I was asked when would be the first cutting on the trees. I told him, “Mr. Preston, we will do a first thinning of pulpwood in about 15 years.” He looked at me and said, “Well good, I will probably need the money then.” 

Talk about a positive outlook!

We are all called to be good stewards of our environment. As landowners, we must strive to do the best we can with overseeing the property we have been entrusted to handle during our brief time we are here on Earth. We will not “own” this land forever, but while it is in our name, we should do a good job with the “management.” 

Timber management has a wide range of good ideas. As with most platforms, there are differences of opinions on how to accomplish various goals.

You could just leave the land alone and it would grow a crop, of something. Our perspective on timber and how we handle that timber and all that goes along with timber, has indeed changed. When I first started working in timber in 1980, I visited an 80-acre clearcut, it was indeed a clearcut. You could see all the way across it, not knowing that about half way across the clearcut was a creek. 

Today, we install Streamside Management Zones along all creeks and drains, reducing erosion and taking care of the ecosystem along that waterway. We have gotten much better at taking care of our environment.

Good timber management can reach across a broad spectrum. Our idea of what management we want on our property comes from what we want to accomplish, our goals for the property while we are the caretakers: financial return; wildlife habitat; aesthetics; recreation; water. Some landowners are more concerned with how much money that the property can generate. 

Hopefully, we can tie all the aspects together with good, sound timber management. You could refer to the concept as ecosystem management. Remember, trees are a crop and we want to grow the best trees we can and capture that growth to utilize for the enhancement of society.

You need to conduct timber sales to capture the timber growth.

Assuming you conducted a “final harvest” sale, you will need to reforest the area. There are many different avenues you could travel down as you accomplish this feat. You will need to do some type of site preparation work; generally, this includes some herbicides to control the brush so that the small planted trees can get a foot hold. 

For the record, in the South, we are talking about planting Loblolly pine seedlings. Remember, all establishment costs are capitalized through the life of the stand.

One plan of action is simply referred to as “spray-burn-plant.” The first step is to conduct an aerial application of herbicide in the summer or early fall; conduct a site-prep burn on the site about 40 days after the herbicide; and then plant the Loblolly pine seedlings in the winter, usually December through early March.