Forest Management


Deciding when to harvest your forest to achieve your management goals can be complicated.Not only do you need to consider the rate of return of individual trees, you also need to know how your trees will respond to management in the form of harvesting. As a generalization, “Harvest (cut) the worst trees first” is a good motto. Other things being equal, you want to harvest the trees with the lowest rate of return first (see EXAMPLE). Trees that are worth less money have lower rates of return because they have poor quality stems and/or they are smaller and less healthy than the better quality trees. The “worst” tree will not become better with time so it should be harvested first. Leaving the better quality, larger, healthier trees to grow longer allows them to add volume and value over time. In addition, the healthier trees also serve as a seed source to regenerate the next forest.

Example: You have 2 savings accounts - one earning a 4 % ROR and the other earning a 7% ROR - and you want to withdraw $100.00 dollars. You would take the money out of the account that had the smallest ROR first leaving money in the account that was earning a higher ROR. Similarly with trees, those with the lowest rate of value growth should be harvested first.

Compare and contrast the following five management options and the possible effect they have on dollar value; a thinning, an actual stand with no treatment done, a full harvest (clear cut), and two diameter limit harvests.

If the stand described in "Thinning" was not thinned, rather the timber not cut was theoretically allowed to grow for 15 years.  At stand age 70 years the trees were assigned the highest possible board foot value based on DBH as per USDA Forest Service grading rules where:

  • <9.6"=pulpwood

  • 9.6-12.5"=F3 log grade

  • 12.6-15.5"=F2 log grade

  • >15.6"=F1 log grade


At stand age 70 years--

Total value of unthinned 1 acre stand at stand age 70 years=$4418.23

Assumed 15 year DBH growth rates for the species are:

  • Red Oak-3.75 inches

  • Chestnut Oak- 3 inches

  • Yellow-Poplar- 4.5 inches

  • Black Cherry- 3.75 inches

  • Soft Maple- 3 inches

  • Hard Maple- 3 inches

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