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How to get the most out of a parcel of land by growing trees for timber, selling firewood and preserving land for future ...
How to get the most out of a parcel of land by growing trees for timber, selling firewood and preserving land for future generations.
A private woodlot may range from 5 to 500 acres, and they are extremely common.
Hilts and Mitchell's book is a personal "get out and walk your woods" plan. The authors answer landowners' most common questions on:
There is also extensive information on landscape ecology, natural succession and hardwood plantings. In this expanded and updated second edition, the changing views and values of woodlots are explored, covering topics such as:
The Woodlot Management Handbook is the definitive book on this important topic.
1 What This Book Is All About 4
2 Woodland Ecology 12
3 Preparing a Woodland Inventory 40
4 An Inventory for Firewood and Timber Production 70
5 Environmental Sustainability and Habitat Conservation 92
6 Timber and Firewood Harvest - Principles and Practices 108
7 Reforestation 151
8 Specialized Agroforestry Options 179
9 Trails, Pests, and Poachers 201
10 Developing Your Woodland-Stewardship Plan 215
11 Buying Woodland Property 225
12 Ensuring Long-Term Conservation 231
13 The Spirit of the Woods 249
14 Changing Views and Values of Woodlots 266
Appendix: Getting Help When You Need It 283
Chapter 1: What This Book Is All About
For fifteen years now, we have been developing programs to help rural landowners understand and care for their properties. We know from this work that rural landowners love their land and are always ready to learn more about it. The single most common group of questions landowners have are related to caring for their woodlands and creating new woodlands by planting trees.
Some owners want to leave their woods completely alone, to preserve it just for the birds. Others need or want to harvest timber or firewood on an ongoing basis. In between are owners interested in nature study, hiking, hunting, and other activities. Many landowners choose a combination of these relationships with their land.
As long as the care of your woodland is "sustainable" — that is, it leaves the woods in healthy ecological condition - we believe that management should be the choice of the landowner. This is why we use the term "stewardship" to refer to this role of landowners. In our view, stewardship simply means the care that private landowners give to their land. It implies some active management based on understanding and an ethical commitment to leave your land in as good condition as, or better than, you found it.
In this book, we will be reviewing a full range of woodland-management options, from preserving your woodland for nature to sustainable timber harvesting. Management that takes into account this complete range of options is sometimes referred to as "holistic forestry."
Over the past decade, the science of forest management has changed substantially, from a historic emphasis on timber and some wildlife management to an emphasis on caring for the entire forest as an "ecosystem."
"ecosystem" is the sum total of all the factors and components that make up the natural system in a given region. It includes physical factors such as the soil, water, sunlight, nutrients, and energy that enable the system to function. It includes the plants that grow in the area to form a plant community. And it includes the wildlife that lives in the area, from birds to mammals to the millions of insects that we rarely notice.
Above all, the term "ecosystem" emphasizes the relationships and interactions among all these components. Thus an ecosystem is a complex web of individual parts, all interacting with each other, as we will discuss in more detail in Chapter 2, on woodland ecology.
A new term closely associated with our understanding of ecosystems is "biodiversity." This term has grown out of international concern for the disappearance of species as humanity eliminates more and more of the remaining natural habitats on the planet. It refers to the complete biological diversity in a region, including:
But woodlands have other important functions as well. Conserving water resources is one of the most critical; forest vegetation plays a key role in the hydrological cycle, moderating runoff and minimizing erosion. Woodlands also provide our most important wildlife habitats and are widely used for recreation, to say nothing of their economic value.
When we speak of ecosystem management, or conservation of biodiversity, we are placing the emphasis on the woodland as a whole, not just the trees and certainly not just those trees that we might harvest for timber. This new emphasis on the big picture — the entire woodland in all its complexity - is one half of the idea of holistic forestry, or what we refer to as woodland stewardship. It recognizes all the ecological functions that woodlands perform.
At the same time, people are usually also part of this picture. At least in the landscape of eastern North America, most woodlands are privately owned, and these landowners use their woodlands for a wide range of purposes. These purposes can be described as the values that woodlands provide to society, though you can also argue that they have their own right to exist.
The values of woodlands are diverse, including:
This wide range of values, which can be reflected in our decision making, is the other half of the new emphasis on holistic forestry — that is, the importance of taking all values into account when making management decisions.
Holistic forestry, or woodland stewardship as we use the term, is therefore forest management that considers the whole woodland as an ecosystem and all the management options that can be applied, as well as considering the whole range of values that the woodland provides.
Understanding Your Woodland
The first step in choosing among management options is to get to know your woodland. This requires walking through your woods at different times of the year, learning to identify the trees, and also recognizing other features such as streams or wetlands. There is no rush to make decisions; you will gain experience and be able to make better decisions over the years.
By gathering information about the trees, the other plants, and the wildlife in your woods, you can prepare a description or inventory. This is the first step in developing a management plan. It can also be the start of a much deeper appreciation of your woodland as an ecosystem in all its complexity.
You can either prepare such a woodland inventory yourself or hire a forest consultant to prepare one for you. Most government programs that support woodland management require the preparation of a basic inventory as the first part of a management plan. In Chapters 3 and 4, we outline the steps to follow in preparing a woodland inventory.
There are two fundamental choices for landowners to make among many possible woodland-management options and values.
In the first case, there are basic steps you should take to ensure the minimum level of environmental sustainability for your woodland. These include protection of the drainage pattern, protection of nesting birds from disturbance, and if harvesting timber, strict adherence to sustainable forest practices, among other concerns.
These basic requirements for sustainable woodlot management are emphasized throughout the book. They will be reflected in different chapters and depend on your own management interests. Remember, the best environmental management of your woodland is usually the