North Quabbin Forestry

Serving Massachusetts Landowners Since 1984

The North Quabbin Eco-Forestry System for Sustainable Forestry

by Mike - December 14th, 2010.
Filed under: North Quabbin Eco-Forestry. Tagged as: .

Landowners can increase their forest and property values by using the North Quabbin Eco-Forestry System for Sustainable Forestry.                                                                                                                          

The responsibility of the practicing forester is to the landowner and to the forest ecosystem.  After the landowners identify their goals, the forester develops a Forest Management Plan to accomplish those goals while protecting forest values.

The trees you leave are more important than the trees you take. In the natural forest, there is always constant regeneration, growth, decline, death, and decay. The selection system mimics this natural process.

The North Quabbin Eco-Forestry System is designed to:

1.  Grow high quality timber while encouraging a diverse natural forest.

2. Provide periodic income from timber sales while keeping a continuous forest cover by using the selection system which will maintain long term economic and ecological sustainability. The selection system promotes a multi-aged forest consisting of trees of many ages and size classes.

3. Preserve all of the ecosystem functions and improve the biological diversity of the forest.

The North Quabbin Eco-Forestry Method for Sustainable Forestry:

1. Thin mostly from below which means that most of the trees removed, at least in the first improvement cutting, will be from the lower crown classes. This type of thinning accelerates the natural mortality of a forest stand as it develops over a long period of time by removing those undesirable trees that are of lower quality and are losing the race for survival because of natural competition from other trees. These lower quality trees have small live crowns with poor form and structure and are growing very slowly.

2. Improvement cuttings and thinnings will never take more than one third of the total volume except in forest stands that have been degraded due to past high-grading where up to 1/2 of the total volume may be taken in the first post-high-grading improvement cutting in order to begin the process of healthy forest restoration.

3. The cutting cycle, which is the interval between timber harvests, will range from 10- 20 years and ensure that no more than 50% of the annual growth is being cut. Over time, this will greatly increase the total volume of timber in the forest.

4. Biomass improvement cuttings are an excellent way to enhance the productive capacity of a forest especially in forest stands that have been degraded due to past high-grading. Subsequent timber harvests can use more conventional timber harvesting systems so as to leave more coarse woody debris behind for nutrient recycling or the future biomass operation can be modified to leave more coarse woody debris and “nurse logs” behind. Nurse logs are important for salamanders and other wildlife and can serve as a seedbed for plants and tree seedlings.

5. Work towards growing and maintaining a forest that would have developed naturally. That means favoring these  common tree species in this area: white pine, red oak, and other high quality hardwoods and some hemlock while discriminating against low value red maple, black birch, other poor hardwoods, “dog haired hemlock” (thickets of smaller hemlock pole size timber), big “bully” white pine (multi-forked low quality white pine that have little or no sawlog value), and big hardwood cull trees that are unsuitable for sawlogs.

6. Species diversity is important for wildlife. Red oak is our most important tree for wildlife because it is more common, but large mast bearing white oak, other oaks (black oak, scarlet oak, and chestnut oak), hickory, sugar maple, cherry, and disease free beech are a smaller component of our forest but should be favored. Sugar maple and cherry are more common in the western part of the state and these very high value trees should always be promoted. Some large hemlock trees should also be retained for wildlife. The hemlock wooly adelgid is not a factor yet in northern and western Massachusetts so pre-salvage cuttings are not recommended. White birch is an attractive tree but because it is shade intolerant, it declines as a forest matures. Some larger white birch can be maintained by cutting some of the adjacent competing trees.

7. Trees with cavities and standing dead trees(snags) are important for nesting birds and other wildlife. A few large cavity trees and snags per acre can be left for wildlife. Snags can be created by girdling some unwanted trees. Girdling kills a tree in place without cutting it down and is done by making one or two cuts all the way around the tree at least one inch deep. A girdled tree will eventually become a standing dead snag which will gradually disintegrate and provide wildlife habitat as it does.

8. For hardwoods like red oak, favor trees that are: reasonably straight; have healthy live crowns (the crown is the top of the tree with live branches and foliage); and at least two clear faces (trees have four faces or sides around the main trunk). A clear face is one that has no seams, cankers, rot, or other defects. White pine trees should be straight with no seams or evidence of interior rot and have healthy live crowns.

9. During all timber harvesting operations, great care must be taken so as not to damage the high quality trees that will remain after the timber harvesting operation is completed. It is very important that these trees are not barked up or suffer any damage to their crowns. Young tree seedling and sapling regeneration should also be protected from any unnecessary damage.  All timber harvesting operations need to take place when the ground is dry or frozen enough to support the timber harvesting machinery so as not to cause any significant rutting of the ground. All slash laws must be followed. Slash is the side branches and top of the harvested trees that are not merchantable for sawlogs, cordwood, or pulpwood and can leave a very unsightly mess behind. But whole tree harvesting (biomass) will greatly reduce the slash and leave the woodlot looking very attractive.  All stream and wetland crossings must be done to minimize any sedimentation or erosion into wetland resource areas. The main skid roads and log landing area should be kept free of most timber harvesting debris.

10. Non-native invasive plants can be a big problem. Some of the most common ones are Oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, Japanese barberry, and Japanese knotweed. When they are present, it is better to eradicate them prior to the timber harvesting operation. If that is not possible, then timber harvesting should be confined to the winter months when the ground is frozen so as not to scarify the ground which would cause these plants to spread further. Post harvest control of these plants can also be done by digging up with a weed wrench or shovel or by using a herbicide.

11. Rare habitat for endangered species is protected under the Natural Heritage Program. If a rare animal (usually it’s a turtle or salamander) or plant is found to be within the timber harvest area, then mitigation measures need to be followed. In the case of a rare turtle or salamander, the mitigation measures are that the timber harvest take place between November and March when the animals are hibernating.

12. For landowners, it’s important to know that how you manage your forest now will have significant effects for the future. By practicing excellent forestry, such as described here, you can increase both your timber and property values while continuing to enjoy the many benefits your forest provides.

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