Timber Harvest in Sharon Responds to 1993's Harvest

In forestry, today's decisions depend on the results of past ones

December 28, 2016
A grapple skidder moves wood to the landing during a timber harvest on David Wilson Land, Sharon, NH.  SPNHF photo.

A grapple skidder moves wood to the landing during the timber harvest on the David Wilson Land, a Forest Society reservation in Sharon, N.H. Forest Society photo.

The Forest Society is conducting a timber harvest this winter that is a good example of "adaptive management" on the David Wilson Land, a Forest Society reservation in Sharon. Licensed Forester Charlie Koch is administering the harvest, and Chuck Rose Logging is doing the cutting.  Harvesting will occur on 118 acres of the 958-acre property.  Other Forest Society lands to the north and south totaling 624 acres have been set aside as ecological reserves; no commercial timber harvesting will occur in these areas.

The harvest on the David Wilson Land was planned in accordance with a comprehensive inventory of the property and a management plan that were both completed in 2013.  The Forest Society has cut trees here before, in 1993. Much of that harvest was a regeneration cut, meaning its goal was to create the right conditions for new trees to grow naturally, whether from seed or from root-sprouting.  On the ground, this meant that around half of the trees were cut, leaving some trees to continue their growth, and removing others to make room for the next forest to grow.  During my inventory of this part of the property in 2013, I found that in many areas, this past harvest was successful, with a diverse mix of healthy young red oak, white pine, beech, birch, and maple growing in the partial shade of the larger trees that were left uncut.  The logical next step was to provide more light to these now 24-year old stems by conducting an “overstory removal” and cutting most of the older cohort.  This is one of the major goals of the current harvest.

Advanced regeneration from the 1993 timber harvest.

In other areas, the 1993 harvest did not result in a desirable mix of regeneration.  Most of these areas were cut in a lighter manner, with perhaps a quarter of the trees cut.  The light that reached the floor in these areas was not as intense, and thus resulted in a less diverse mix of mostly beech and black birch.  In the years since the cut, the crowns of the uncut trees have expanded, creating shady conditions that have stunted the growth of the young trees that became established following the 1993 harvest.  In these areas, an overstory removal was not the right harvest prescription, as we don’t yet have the mix of tree species we want to grow underneath.  In these areas, patch cuts anywhere in size from one acre to nine acres are being done, in order to remove the mature trees in the overstory as well as the existing stunted regeneration.  The goal in these areas is to start fresh, and cast enough light on the ground to encourage a more diverse mix of oak, pine, birch, and maple to naturally regenerate.

Patch cut, five acres in size, aimed to establishing new regeneration.  Forest Society photo.

This harvest is in many ways a reaction to the results we obtained in 1993, and it is an example of adaptive management, a core principle of forestry.  You come up with a plan and create conditions to try to carry it out, but there is constant need to reevaluate your plan and determine whether its goals were achieved and whether any changes need to be made in the future.  The Forest Society aims to inventory its properties and update our management plans every 15 years, in order to be responsive to the ever-changing needs of our forestlands.

If you have any questions about the forestry we carry out on our reservations, please contact us with questions.  We strongly believe that demonstrating responsible, sustainable land management is important and a core part of our mission as an organization.  We take pride in our land management and are always happy to discuss sustainable forestry.

Gabe Roxby is a field forester with the Forest Society.