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Wood Lot Management

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by velvetfoot, Mar 24, 2006.

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  1. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Maybe this is a big topic, but I'll broach it anyway. :) We just moved to a house on 6 mostly-wooded and hilly acres. We would like to keep the woods healthy. Can I take the dead and fallen trees to burn, or would the land be better served if they just rotted back into the soil? Is letting the land stay natural the healthiest for the woods? Any general tips?

    Sorry for my newbieness. :)

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  2. Metal

    Metal Minister of Fire

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    IMHO, I think you should clear out the dead wood. Normally, Mother Nature would take care of dead trees and other debris with a good fire every once in a while (if the insects and rotting doesn't get them first of course), which is probably something you do not want.
  3. scfa99

    scfa99 New Member

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    for what its worth, i have a friend who has 15 acres and a forest management plan. Basically thats what the plan lays out. Clearing out the dead, decaying and excess trees to promote solid growth.
  4. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Most of the nutrients that are returned to the forest soil are deposited by the leaves every autumn. There isn't that much in the wood itself and as such, removing deadwood from a forest is not going to have any measurable impact on the health of the trees or the soil. A forester told me once that one lightning strike puts more nitrogen into the soil than all the trees on a woodlot combined. I don't know if that's true, but it emphasizes the fact that soils derive their health from many different sources.

    As a matter of fact, you will be improving the health and value of your standing trees if you thin out the dead, dying, sick, deformed and othewise undesirable live trees from the stand. If you have one nice, straight tree surrounded by three smaller, deformed ones, in other words, you'll be doing a good thing from a silvicultural point of view by cutting down the latter in order to provide more resources (soil, water, air and sunlight) to the healthier tree. As that tree grows and propagates, its offspring should share its health and vigor, with a healthier forest resulting over the longer term.

    Really rotten, dead standing trees should be left, however, as they provide shelter and a food source (bugs) for wildlife. These are called "den trees." Since they would have no value as firewood anyway, there's really no reason to take them out, unless they threaten a building or are creating a potential safety hazard.

    Many people don't realize that you can benefit a forest by thinning it out, but it's no different than a garden. If you want healthy, vigorous vegetables in your garden, you've gotta take out the weeds and the underperforming plants. The nice thing about applying that standard to a woodlot is that instead of throwing the culled vegetation on the compost pile, you can heat your house with it.
  5. MALogger

    MALogger New Member

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    Greetings,

    Just my 2 cents! Ditto what Eric said. With 6 wooded acres properly managed you could easily supply yourself with firewood indefinitely if you are inclined to do the work.

    Craig
  6. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    :) :) :) :)

    V
  7. MALogger

    MALogger New Member

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    You know what I'm saying! :)

    Craig
  8. jabush

    jabush Feeling the Heat

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    I'll second what everyone typed. And add that cleaning up the dead and downed trees will get a lot of fuel off the forest floor. Keep your slash cut low so it will break down quicker. Less chance of fire.
    Also, there will be fewer widow makers to worry about as you walk around your property. It takes time and a lot of work, but a nicely managed wood lot is a thing of beauty!!
  9. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    The garden is a good analogy, though it's sometimes best thought of as a perenial garden with a much longer lifespan. Nature can and does work fine without human intervention. The main difference is that she's working on a larger, longer garden plan. We may not always agree with that plan, the same as we may sometimes not agree with our neighbor's land plans, but there is a plan in place nonetheless. The ecosystem of the understory is very complex and dynamic. One can see the cycle happening over the long-haul. I'm not against woodlot management, but it does need training and understanding of what is taking place on the land outside human intervention.

    Where I live, the entire hillside of maybe 1000 acres was clearcut in the 1800's to harvest massive douglas firs for rapidly growing Seattle economy. Only a few stately trees were left growing. After that Scandanavian farmers came in an cleared out the stumps and undergrowth and planted lignonberries, elderberries, currants and strawberries on a massive family farm. This produce was shipped off to Seattle and Tacoma. By the early 1900, this farm started getting divided up amongst family members that put in houses, etc. The property continued to sub-divide and some large lots went idle as the children moved away. Nature immediately started her work first by planting low growth of salal and scotch broom (a form or pea). Then came young alders, which are kind of like tall, fast growing pea plants. Soft maples grew in the void and a few young firs. Once the alders mature, they self destruct by getting too tall and spindly (~80ft.) and fall. They rot very quickly and are full of nitrogen. This provides food for the next generation, the titans - doug fir, hemlock in our region.

    Move forward to 2006 and the farm is about 50% overgrown. We have a 20 acre stand infront of us that has been deeded to land trust. It's a pretty complex ecosystem. We have some 120+ ft tall firs, decaying alders and competing soft maples. Over the long haul, the firs will win out. That's nature's garden plan over a couple centuries. In the process we're watching it become home to eagles, hawks, food source for the large pileated woodpecker, flickers etc. Eventually, left undisturbed we may get some really rare birds and animals moving in. There is a steady stream that, now that shade has returned to its banks, is hosting baby salmon. A plentiful supply of them allows high-food chain feeders (raptors, orcas, owls) to thrive. We're happy to coexist with them. Some of us are managing small woodlots, but it's also good to let nature manage some on her own. She can make a great neighbor and teacher having a few more millenia of experience.
  10. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    That's a good point and explanation, BeGreen, and it's a point worth making.

    Like any other piece of property, such as a farm field or a building lot or a city park or a yard, you have to decide what you want it to do. If you conclude that one role your 6-acre woodlot should play is to provide you with fuel, then you can manage it accordingly with confidence that it will be sustainable for that purpose, and any other compatible use that you have in mind (such as provide a sanctuary for some forms of wildlife, or a place to ski or a refuge from a busy world).

    Put another way, land has any number of different, legitimate uses. And for better or worse, most of them are tailored to human needs. If you manage your property in a way that's appropriate to your needs and desires, then you're doing the right thing, IMO.
  11. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for all the thoughtful replies! It'll take some study on my part I guess.
  12. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    If you ever get around Old Forge, NY (W. Central Adirondacks) velvetfoot, PM me and I'll show you how to manage a woodlot for firewood production.
  13. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for the offer Eric. We like to hike around in the Adirondacks. Mostly as an excuse to have dinner at the Owl at Twilight in Olmsteadville. :)
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    We're on the same wavelength Eric. My point was that when one is considering woodlot management, observation of how nature manages the forest is a good first step. I've seen some woodlots that looked like a Swiss park and seem devoid of life.
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Cooool. You are so lucky, all we have are some passenger pigeons.
  16. Hokerer

    Hokerer Member

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    Ha! Well, well, we got a Dodo. Yeah, that's the ticket
  17. Metal

    Metal Minister of Fire

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    We had one of those Ivory Billed Woodpeckers behind our house, until my neighbors Sabre Toothed Tiger got hungry :eek:
  18. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    Everyone thought passenger pigeons were extinct! That is indeed an auspicious siting! Capture and breed it! You're rich! ;)
  19. JEREMIAH

    JEREMIAH New Member

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    YA THAT IS THE BEST THING TO DO WHICH IS CUT AND REMOVE ALL THE DEAD WOOD AND LIMB'S THAT ARE ON YOUR LAND. IT WELL ALSO KEEP THE FIRE DANGER DOWN ON YOUR LAND AS WELL. IF YOU WANT TO HELP KEEP THE DIRT HEALTHY THAN YOU CAN PUT THE ASH FROM THE STOVE ON THE GROUND AND THAT WELL HELP KEEP THE NEWTREEENCE IN THE GROUND.


    JEREMIAH
  20. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I hope he rode out on his mastadon. They can leave a real mess.
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