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It takes an expert to log property properly

I have some clients who are selling some land which they do not live on and are very proud of the logging job they had done last year because they made sure to tell the logger to leave one-third of the trees! They knew and trusted the logger for many years, he was a good man… And so he is. I know him, too, but he is a logger and his primary job is to get timber out of the woods as efficiently and economically profitable as possible, while meeting the landowners’ request to leave one-third of the trees. No brainer, take all the biggest and best trees with the least rot and of the largest size because it is more economically efficient to make the fewest skids for the maximum volume out of the two-thirds timber allotted.

Job well done but the forest looks like hell. The genetic stock left to reforest the area is crap and the one-third of the trees left are the smallest of the merchantable trees, the most suppressed individuals in the understory. What’s more, many are cedars which will die of sun-scald in the next few years because they are not used to growing in the light, while other shade tolerant trees which were left will blow over as they have never been required to become very wind firm, deep within the forest and under the canopy. The remaining trees will probably never grow at a good rate because they have spent way too many years living in the shade, so they won’t release.

This forest will yield poor timber production now and well into the future, as it has been left with a majority of short, little, sub-merchantable trees (small but old; genetic crap that didn’t compete well so never grew much but survived, small and stunted, in the understory). All the thick little stuff will shade out brush and so these types of cuts don’t even provide as much good wildlife forage, as other cuts can.

The forest would have fared far better if my friends had hired a forester - there are many good ones to choose from around these parts. They charge about 10 percent but will assure that your forest is managed well, for you and generations to come. Usually, the forester will offset the cost of more sound management practices with better marketing of the timber to specialty mills and by optimizing bucking procedures at the landing to gear specific size specs to the mills paying top dollar for those sizes and species.

If I had been the forester in charge I would have left the nicest and most healthy trees, in the upper diameter classes, on about a 50-foot grid spacing and marked a healthy vigorous mid/understory too. I would have created small openings by expanding natural meadows through harvest and harvested everything down to a 6-foot diameter (at the top 8.5‘ log). This would be followed with site prep to encourage growth of larch and other species which need open or even bare ground to germinate, as well as eliminate a lot of suppressed/sub-merchantable stock.

A lot could have been done to improve the quality of this timber harvest for wildlife, future timber quality and quantity of growth while earning nearly the same amount of money, after factoring in the improved value of the land, both as real estate or as timber lands. A good Land Manager should always dictate or have a degreed Forester over-see or consult the timber-sale setup, execution and marketing, too. It is an awesome responsibility and it really should be overseen by a knowledgeable professional to make sure it is done with the best of the land and landowner in mind.


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Author info

Michael White Michael White is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker - Sterling Society and a consultant for Northwest Group In-Land. He has a BS in Forest Resources & Ecosystem Management and specializes in land, ranches and homes with acreage.

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