Forestry is the management of the forest or lands to be converted to forest to most efficiently produce the maximum benefits to the human community from the forest. These benefits are usually defined to include aesthetics and recreation, wildlife, protection of soils and watersheds, wood products, and, in some cases, forage for livestock. They can also include minor forest products such as nuts and berries, greenery, medicinal herbs, etc.
Forestry is usually practiced by planning how to most efficiently utilize existing resources which include soils, climate, topography, and existing vegetation. Forest practices then include seeding, planting, or otherwise reproducing stands; practices to improve forest stands such as release cuttings, pruning, cleanings, thinnings, and sanitation cuts; and harvests which may also be of several types. How these are done will determine species composition and structure of the forest. The resulting forest may be all aged, even aged, or multiple aged. It may be very productive of desirable forest products or not very productive.
The forest products to be emphasized in a forest management plan will vary depending on the objectives of the owner. Depending on whether the forest lands are publicly or privately owned, owned by an absentee or local owner and depending on the economic needs and ownership philosophy of the owner, short term economic benefits may override aesthetic, community, social, or long term benefits.
It should be noted that the overall long term results of various forest management plans will have both environmental and economic consequences. Practices which would result in damage to the environment such as significant pollution of streams and soil quality degradation should never be included in any responsible plan by a professional forester. However, short term economic needs of landowners may sometimes override long term benefits or may cause frequent harvests of wood products to be given precedence over aesthetic and other intangible values or over infrequent harvests of higher value wood products. This means that often the objectives of individual landowners may not be those which will result in the maximum long term benefits to the community as a whole.
Usually public opinion does not make a distinction between environmental and economic consequences of forest management. For instance, heavy cutting is associated with environmental degradation although, if stream pollution and soil erosion is minor, no environmental degradation may, in fact, take place. On the other hand clear cutting is usually not distinguished from "high grading". Clear cutting is an accepted harvest method used in stands in which the objective is to maintain pre-climax stands of usually shade intolerant species or in which the objective is even aged management. Much more common is "High grading", the practice of harvesting the best and most valuable timber leaving cull and low quality timber in the woods. Although fewer trees are cut than in a clear cut, the timber stand is left in far worse condition.
Ideally Appalachian hardwoods would be all aged stands growing on high quality sites and owned by enlightened landowners whose objective is to produce high quality hardwoods in the long term while at the same time protecting the environment and providing productive wildlife habitat. They would be harvested by selective cuts about every 30 to 40 years with a timber rotation age of 60 to 100 years. In practice, due to the topography and to past management including overcutting, erosion and repeated forest fires much of the land is not high quality sites for forest production. Landowner's objectives are more likely to be short term economic gain and the quality of the forest environment is often given little consideration. Low quality, "high graded" stands of young small trees are the rule rather than the exception and they are usually harvested too small too soon.
Existing forest industries as well as forest ownership patterns usually determine the local forest management. There are very few professionally trained foresters available, so little actual forest management takes place. In managing forests it is necessary to have good markets for small wood products (such as pallet mills) so that there will be a market for the trees removed during improvement cuts or intermediate cuts such as cleanings, thinnings, etc. However, in the absence of forest management the presence of these markets usually leads to overcutting and short term rotations. For harvests of larger higher quality wood products, such as furniture quality oak, markets such as grade sawmills and veneer mills are necessary. However, these markets alone in the absence of forest management often lead to "high grading" of the forest. For maximum economic benefit to the community secondary wood products industries such as furniture factories, etc. are also necessary. These not only provide added value to the wood resource but also are an additional labor market for the community and a great stimulant to the local economy.
Site Preparation - one specialized type of forest operation is site preparation which involves removing from an area all stems of woody brush and trees and, in some cases, weeds and grasses which will compete with regeneration to be established by either artificial or natural means. Site preparation methods may be chemical or mechanical or may sometimes be done by use of controlled burns.
Intermediate cuts may include:
Types of timber harvests can include:
Last revised July 2, 1997.
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