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Forest Management, Sustainable Forestry, Part 1

What is forest management? Why would a forest, as small as a few acres or thousands of acres, need management? What would be the objectives of forest management? How would these things be accomplished?

Forest management is the use of scientific methods to assess, measure, and make decisions to determine actions needed to accomplish established goals.  Acting on this information and the performance of the necessary practices accomplishes the goals.

These forest goals could include enhancing forest health, promoting wildlife, production of wood products, enhancement of recreational uses, esthetics, or other factors like control of invasive plants, diseases, or insects.

Forests need management due to many factors. Some may include attack by destructive insects and disease, spread of invasive plants, damage inflicted by forest fire, storm events, over-maturity of trees, and undesirability of the present forest condition, to name a few.

The expansion of global economics has caused the rapid spread of invasive species. Examples of invasive species are not new, but the rate has accelerated. The massive destruction of the once-prolific Chestnut tree due to blight, and the spread of Dutch elm disease has been around for many decades. However, now we are faced with the destruction of the Ash tree due to nonnative insect, the Emerald Ash Borer.  This insect arrived only a short time ago to our shores, suspected of being conveyed in cargo pallet material. Similarly, the stink bug arrived in cargo containers. 

Other invasive species have arrived in the course of commerce to yield new and interesting landscaping plants. The Ailanthus, a highly invasive tree, was first imported for use as a rapidly growing shade tree. The Japanese Barberry, Bush Honeysuckle, Russian olive, and Autumn Olive among many others, arrived as imports for landscaping.  When these invasive plants get into the wild, they rapidly compete with native species and can be very troublesome, rapidly displacing native plants.   In a woodlot, the Japanese barberry can make walking impossible due to the thorny nature of the plant. Normally, native plants cannot compete with these. Even a casual look at wooded areas after normal leaf drop, shows some invasive plants that, in many cases, will still be green and growing. Their longer growing season gives them a distinct advantage over native plants. Control methods are available to help prevent the further spread of invasive plants.  

Other reasons for forest management include thinning to prevent the spread of disease and the encouragement of certain desirable species. An example of this might be the thinning of a dense pine plantation to make the plantation less susceptible to pine bark beetles, and to help ensure that the pine trees are allowed to expand and flourish into the future.

Fire has been used as a management tool for thousands of years to promote the growth of desirable “fire dependent” species, such as oak, pine, and blueberries. Using fire in a controlled manner can help prevent the buildup of heavy fuels in a forest, so that large, disastrous fires do not occur.

 
 Certain tree species can be selected as desirable for wildlife food, shelter, wood products, or esthetics.  Forest management techniques can also promote the development of certain plant communities, such as cutting some of the invading trees to maintain an old field habitat, or selecting oak seed trees to help regenerate young oak trees in the understory of an established forest. Dead and dying ash trees can be removed from a forest to make the area safer for hikers and reduce the fuel load for forest fires. Planting evergreens along a boundary line to establish a windbreak or esthetic buffer is another management tool. Establishing walnut plantations can provide hard mast for animals, and produce high value forest products in the future.

Oftentimes, both desirable and undesirable trees may be growing in a forest.  Sometimes, an owner might be able to remove Bradford pear, locust, and ash trees for firewood so that the oaks, maples, and poplar trees have more room to grow. 

Forest management begins with an assessment typically by a private or government forester. Details of this process will be provided in a subsequent article. The ultimate result is good stewardship of our land resources. 

Article by Claude Eans, Frederick County Forest Conservancy District Board member

Nature Note for 8/5/2018