The Woodlot Management Handbook: Making the Most of Your Wooded Property For Conservation, Income or Both


How to get the most out of a parcel of land by growing trees for timber, selling firewood and preserving land for future ...

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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 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:

  • Basic conservation
  • Nature appreciation
  • Reforestation
  • Recreational use
  • Moderate forestry
  • Timber management
  • Assessing your own woodland
  • Identifying trees
  • Specific techniques for maintaining wildlife habitat, such as snags, logs, den trees and bush piles.

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:

  • Woodlots in the broader landscape
  • Moving to ecological restoration
  • Managing conifer plantations
  • Watching for endangered species
  • Dealing with invasive insects and plants.

The Woodlot Management Handbook is the definitive book on this important topic.

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Editorial Reviews

Current Books on Gardening and Botany - Jean E. Bedger
[Review of previous edition:] A useful guide to basic woodlot or forest conservation practice, management and utilization ... This is a well-done, comprehensive explanation of woodland ecology in terms of property management and restoration. Over 50 diagrams and illustrations help the reader understand the text. As an owner of a woodlot, I found this book a good resource and of great interest.
[Review of previous edition:] The overall thesis of the book is that good land stewardship maximizes both ecological conservation and economic returns.
[Review of previous edition:] The authors offer information on developing a woodland-stewardship plan and buying woodland property.
Northern Woodlands - Rob Bryan
This revised edition of The Woodlot Management Handbook is useful, and it fills a niche for woodland owners who are new to forestry and for those contemplating a woodland purchase.
Book News
The second edition of this guide to private woodland conservation and management is updated to reflect changes in technology and better access to information that has become available in the ten years since its original printing. Focusing on the ecosystems of the northeastern portion of the United States, this volume provides information on ecologically conscious and economically viable stewardship of small woodlots. Covering such topics as environmental sustainability and habitat conservation, timber and firewood harvest principles, reforestation and trails, pests and poachers, the work also offers advice on buying woodland properties and developing woodland stewardship plans that provide for the long-term conservation of the environment. Hilts teaches resource science at the Ontario Agricultural College and Mitchell is a researcher at the University of Guelph.
[Review of previous edition:] The overall thesis of the book is that good land stewardship maximizes both ecological conservation and economic returns.
This revised and expanded edition of The Woodlot Management Handbook contains lots of information pertaining to forests, conservation, timber production and more. The chapter on Woodland Ecology addresses important topics including soil and nutrients, water, climate and sunlight, competition, the soil ecosystem, wildlife habitats, food chains and the importance of natural corridors. Readers will learn how to prepare a woodland inventory, principles and practices of timber and firewood harvest, about reforestation and even about trails, pests and poachers as well as buying a woodlot property. Numerous black-and-white illustrations and colour photographs complement the text. If you have a woodlot or are thinking about acquiring one you will want to consider reading The Woodlot Management Handbook.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554075539
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 10/8/2009
  • Edition description: Second Edition, Revised and Expanded
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 911,979
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Stewart Hilts teaches in the Department of Land Resources Science at the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph.

Peter Mitchell is a research associate at the Centre for Land and Water Stewardship, University of Guelph. Together, Mitchell and Hilts have been designing and carrying out programs to support the stewardship efforts of rural landowners since 1991.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

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

Acknowledgments 308

Index 309

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First Chapter

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."

Woodland Stewardship

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:

  • the diversity of plant communities in a landscape,
  • the diversity of species in a community,
  • the diversity of genetic characteristics in a single species, and
  • the genetic traits of an individual organism.
Conservation of biodiversity is now a global priority, another issue to which we will return in the following chapter.

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:

  • their contribution to the natural beauty of the landscape,
  • the rare species they may shelter,
  • the erosion control and water conservation they provide,
  • the oxygen they produce,
  • the opportunities for recreation they provide, from hunting to nature study, from snowmobiling to cross-country skiing,
  • their role as wildlife habitat,
  • their role in conserving biodiversity,
  • their ability to provide economic return through maple-syrup or firewood production, and
  • their ability to provide a sustainable harvest of timber.

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.

Balancing Choices

There are two fundamental choices for landowners to make among many possible woodland-management options and values.

  1. The first choice is to determine a basic level of environmentally sustainable care for your woodland that will ensure ongoing protection of the entire woodland ecosystem. All woodland management, no matter what your personal objectives, should meet basic environmental goals.
  2. The second choice is the balance of emphasis you wish to place among different values or uses reflecting your own personal interests, from conserving biodiversity and watching wildlife, to harvesting timber and firewood.
In this book, we will deal with both of these aspects of managing your woodlot.

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

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