Forest Economics 1 - Individual Tree Value

A forest of value to a private owner may have many contributing components.  This discussion involves the most basic normally traded value source - the individual tree.  Later discussions may relate to how other value sources develop and are evaluated.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and tree value can have the same components.  However, contractors, equipment dealers, taxing authorities and banks seem to deal only in some form of legal tender.  The one reliable source of tradeable value found and or able to be grown on most forest land are the structural parts of timber quality trees.  These trees have dependable value growth characteristics.  Accurate evaluation of both the current state of the tree condition and its potential for future change are essential to the recovery of existing stand value and the process of adding more value to new or existing trees.

The economically valuable parts of any tree:
Salable Value:
    The main stem - is the primary support structure of most trees.  The most valuable part of the tree is generally the lowest 8 to 20 foot section. Recent timber sales have shown that where there is a reliable grading system for log purchases that early pruning and effective thinning can double the normal value received for merchantable volume.

It is essential to grasp that there are two parts to this development of value:
1) Getting the tree in a condition that it can grow and keeping that capability functional throughout its value production cycle, however long that might be. See the Forest Management Tools page for details on how this works.

2) Keeping the stem form free of defects from the size when the pruning occurred. There are two sources of defects: branches, living and dead, and stem form irregularities such as crotches or broken top sections. It seems that as stands are thinned reglarly there is greater chance for the formation of ascendant branch maintenance and competition that results in multiple near vertical stems. The crotches that form as the stem grows in size can be very weak and eventually split out and either form an infection court for entry of rot and discoloration or create a very weak area that fails mechanically as the upper portion is loaded over time.

More detail:

Intense weather events make many things worse than they would have been in less turbulent times. Several years ago there was an early snow storm that caught hardwoods with a full canopy of leaves. The pine seemed to shed the snow load with little trouble but the fast growing straight hardwoods were frequently snapped off at twenty or so feet from the ground leaving a torn stem which either died or sprouted many suckers that competed to become the main stem. It is doubtful if any of these low broken stems will be used for anything other than energy. Storms with greater power can tear stems apart or uproot the whole tree even as the stem is twisted enough to destroy the utility (or predictability thereof) for anything other than energy uses. The outsourcing of production of wood and paper products or even energy will guarantee that much of the storm damaged material will ever be recovered.

Predicting how fast a forest (trees) must grow to provide a reliable return on care is going to become increasingly difficult. Be careful!