Many landowners think of harvesting and reforestation as two separate and sequential activities, but planning for reforestation before the first tree is harvested can make a big impact on your bottom line by reducing expenses and increasing revenues.
The process of considering harvesting and stand regeneration as a single activity can be called stand replacement. The concept was described by Matt Nespeca of BASF in the March 2001 issue of Tree Farmer magazine. The advantage is that, by defining reforestation objectives first, harvesting can be done in a manner that makes reforestation more successful and cost-effective.
For example, the first important decision is whether to clearcut or select-cut. In some cases a landowner may opt to selectively cut and manage a hardwood area using uneven age management versus clearcutting and regenerating with pine. Converting a hardwood site to pine can drive up the reforestation costs significantly, particularly if the area is small and it would be difficult to find a contractor to do the work. Regenerating the hardwood naturally would greatly reduce the costs and may even be a benefit to wildlife.
If the landowner does decide to clearcut, then some thought needs to be given as to what the end results will look like and whether they can be regulated in a cost effective manner. The two broad classifications of clearcuts include a “commercial” clearcut and a “silvicultural” clearcut. A commercial clearcut removes merchantable trees, leaving the unmerchantable trees standing. The unmerchantable trees left after a clearcut tend to be intermediate, suppressed, shade-tolerant trees that may never be productive in a new stand. If you intend to replant with a species such as loblolly pine, the trees and shrubs remaining after a commercial clearcut may add to the cost of reforestation by making it more difficult to plant or requiring more treatments to control competing vegetation.
A silvicultural clearcut harvests merchantable trees as well as unmarketable trees. The logging costs of a silvicultural clearcut are typically much more expensive than a commercial clearcut. This additional cost would be deducted from the stumpage price, so it could affect the final harvest value substantially. Depending on the chip markets, some of this extra cost may be recovered through the sale of chips. The primary advantages of a silvicultural clearcut are that it is easier to plant the site and competition control may be less expensive and more effective.
Only extensive experience with timber harvests can allow you to predict the end result of a clearcut harvest. Using this experience helps us to determine whether it is more cost effective to try and regulate the end result through timber harvest restrictions or to pay the site preparation fees after the harvest. Making the correct decisions can save thousand’s of dollars in reforestation costs. Making the wrong decisions can increase your costs just as much.
By harvesting with your next forest in mind, you can increase the stand’s income and reduce costs. We’ll be happy to discuss how you can maximize returns from your land with efficient stand-replacement planning. Contact us at 919-846-7520
Reprinted from “Forest Management News” Spring 2003, Volume 23 Number 1, published by Timber Marketing & Management of the Carolinas, Inc.