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Managing for a Whole Forest: Sustainable Timber Growth & Harvest

In 1970 the timber volume was cruised at 1.9 million board feet. For the past 33 years we have harvested an annual average of 60,000 board feet (ranging from 11,000 to 110,000) for a total of 1.97 million board feet.  Two recent, independent cruises showed volumes of 1.9 and 2.2 million board feet.

In the last several years, most of the harvest has been salvage logging.  Initially we also did some precommercial and commercial thinning and spacing where we favored the better trees and/or the tree species less commonly found on the tree farm.  Currently, the only thinning done is of small trees with pruning shears.

If we had clearcut the parcel when it was purchased there would be few if any merchantable trees and it would take many decades more to reach the original volume.  By doing uneven aged timber management we have increased productivity as well as provided "old growth" timber habitat.

This principle can be illustrated in the graph below.  This individual tree took 50 years to reach a volume of 200 board feet.  After that, it grew about 200 board feet per decade until it was harvested. This growth pattern can also be used to illustrate growth in the forest as a whole.  In field A, a forest with trees in the 0-20 year age range, there is very little growth in the volume of timber.  In field B, a forest in the 20-50 year age range, there is some growth in the volume of timber, but it is still less growth than the land is capable of supporting.  Somewhere in field C the forest will reach it's maximum growth potential.  At that point  the availability of water, light, and similar factors will become limiting factors and tree mortality will reach equilibrium with the new growth. We maintain the forest on the Tree Farm at somewhere a little below this point, where the trees are healthy and not overly stressed.