When the Europeans first came to Pennsylvania around 90% of the state was covered thick with forest. There are even reports of early explores being claustrophobic due to the heavy covering of the woods. The general perception during the early part of our country’s history, with regards to forests, was that land needed to be cleared for agriculture and urban development.
William Penn initially stated that for every 5 acres of forest cut 1 should be left as forest, but that advice was forgotten as time went on and a tremendous about of woodlands were destroyed. The first sawmill was in south eastern Pennsylvania in 1662 and PA became the country’s lumber capitol in the 1800s. Forest fires were a big problem and there were little incentives for people to keep standing timber land.
Dr. Joseph T. Rothrock, the father of PA forestry, identified taxes as one of the early factors motivating landowners to deplete forests rapidly. Constantly rising annual taxes were too much of a burden from a source that is not an annual crop. People would decimate the forest and abandon the land rather than pay the taxes. Concerns about natural resources really were nonexistent up though the 1800s.
By the mid-19th century Pennsylvanian citizens formed a group to deal with forest related problems. They began to preserve forest as parks and study and promote better care and forest management. The PA Forestry Association was developed to promote scientific forestry. J.T. Rothrock was a leader in this movement. He recognized that forests are crops, which need to be protected from fire and taken care of. Throughout the last 150 years the evolution of forestry has been amazing. Through lots of experimentation, trial and error, scientific studies and documentations Pennsylvania now has a harvest to growth ratio of two to one. The majority of today’s forests in PA, which cover 60% of the state, are approximately 80 – 120 years oldand are a result of the awareness to the importance of proper silviculture.
Over the years different types of Sviculture, which is the practice of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forest to meet diverse needs and values, have developed.
UNEVEN – AGE Silviculture there will be 3 or more distinctly different age classes in the forest stand. This is done using group selection and single tree selection. These Silviculture systems maintain the aesthetics of the property and maintain shade intolerant species in the stands. They also produce multistoried stands and maintain diversity, providing food, cover, and habitat for many species of wildlife
Group selection is similar to single tree selection in that it involves periodic cuts that: (1) establish and develop reproduction; (2) improve stand structure and quality; (3) create a balanced even-aged stand; and, (4) control residual stocking for an even flow of products. These cuttings open the same fixed proportion of stand area in both group and single-tree selection methods. The distinctive feature of group selection is that these cuttings are concentrated into fewer gaps of larger sizes; one advantage is that intermediate and shade-intolerant species can be regenerated.
Single-tree selection – method in which over periodic cuts, individual trees of all different sizes and classes are removed throughout the sand to achieve desired characteristics. This method mimics the natural gap-phase dynamics which occur in mature unmanaged stands, but with greater regeneration. The primary advantage of single tree selection is that it maintains tree cover and moderates environmental conditions. Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of single selection http://www.forestencyclopedia.net/p/p1796 here. This method is most appropriate for shade-tolerant species.
In the 1953 the Forestry Commission recognized the need to create a management plan that primarily focused on single tree selections and the establishment of uneven-age management. In 1965 after poor regeneration results an amendment was made to include even-age management clearcutting, seed tree and shelterwood harvests.
EVEN-AGE Silviculture is when all the trees in a forest stand are the same or nearly the same age.
This is typically created by either a shelterwood cut or a clearcut.
Clearcutting – People hear clear cut and automatically assume poor timber management practices. This is not always the case when using a clearcut for regeneration purposes. this method removes the entire overstory (mature trees) Foresters create openings or clearcuts when harvesting trees which allow for more full sunlight for new trees. Patches of clearcuts can be very beneficial in forest regeneration. The primary advantage of the clearcutting method is that it provides the sunlight required for the development and growth of moderately to highly shade-intolerant species such as oaks.
Shelterwood – Establishment of a new essentially even aged, forest stand from partial removal of overstory in a series of three harvests:
- Preparatory cutting: a cutting designed to remove poor quality trees and to increase vigor and seed production among the residuals.
- Seed cutting: a cutting performed to open the stand sufficiently to encourage the development of regeneration.
- Removal cutting: a cutting that is done after regeneration is established to remove the overstory and to allow the new stand to grow.
The goal of a shelter wood cut is to create regeneration while having choice in selecting the species and trees with good genes and opening the canopy to allow the sunlight in to make it all happen.
Seed Tree Method – This method is very similar to the Shelterwood cut, they only difference is that fewer trees remain after the seed cutting and these residual trees serve only as a seed source.
These different silviculture methods all represent different types of natural disturbances in nature, but with improved results. It’s like growing a crop, the weeds need pulled out and proper management will increase the value of the forest stand.
Patrick Green, founder of Greenspirit & co founder of Green Peace, talks about the forest disturbance from Mt. St. Helen’s in his book Trees are the Answer. Mt. St. Helen’s destroyed 150,000 acres. The public land was left untouched to allow nature to naturally regenerate, and it will eventually. Mother Nature is amazingly resilient and she will endure. But the company on the privately owned land salvaged 85,000 three-bedroom homes worth of timber and using the heavy equipment and dragging the logs they broke through the volcanic ash, exposing the fertile soil to create a seed bed. Then they planted two-year-old Douglas fir seedlings. 18 years later the public land still looked like a desert and the private land has enough growth to produce a commercial crop of timber in 2026.
Hickman Timber Management (HTM) primarily uses single tree & group selection to harvest but ultimately, like everything in life, it’s about an overall balance and understanding of the forests. One can only learn so much from reading the books. It takes spending time and growing up with the forests.
In the mid 1960s Larry Hickman and HTM was working with the game commission managing their land and part of their plan was to leave food plots in the property. Later when they returned they noticed a tremendous amount of red oak regeneration on the northern side of narrow east to west clearcuts. They applied this into their management plan and years later when college professor with all his forestry PHDs came to do the FSC audit he couldn’t believe how we had such an abundance of red oak regeneration.
Proper Silviculture in a holistic approach to timber management, aesthetics, wildlife management, and society is an important value for HTM. Responsible stewardship ethic in the planning, management and use of the forest’s resources today will preserve our forest and ensure their continued benefits and values are here for tomorrow.