Many of us approach the new year with having the mindset of a fresh start or new beginning with hopes of growing new healthy aspects of our lives. While many of us give up on these pursuits after the first few months, such cannot be the case when talking about forest management.
In forestry a fresh start means harvesting mature sawtimber and cultivating new young saplings. When even aged silviculture is practiced correctly the final harvest/stage of management involves removing the overstory once the new age class has successfully been established. This changes the stocking from a mature sawtimber stand to a young seedling/sapling stand. A visual example of this can be seen in the pictures below where a large clear-cut has created advanced yellow poplar, oak and maple young growth, providing increased sunlight and nutrients after the overstory was removed.
This “regeneration harvest” has created advanced yellow poplar, oak and maple young growth, providing increased sunlight and nutrients after the overstory was removed.
In northern hardwoods “clear-cutting” is often misunderstood to be bad for our forests which can be the case when poorly applied. But, when properly applied, a clear-cut means the successful establishment of new native seedlings that will grow to make up the future forest. This is why you will sometimes hear folks call this type of harvest a “regeneration harvest”. Clear cuts play a crucial role in keeping our forests healthy and creating biodiversity for all types of wildlife including native song birds, roughed grouse, woodcock, wild turkey and of course white tail deer. Many recent studies have also found that young forests will sequester more carbon than old growth forests because these quick-growing volunteer or pioneer species will take over the landscape once increased sunlight and proper soil scarification techniques have been applied.
This is not to say that clear cutting is right for every property; some properties will never be a good candidate for a clear cut. There are many steps that must be taken prior to removing the overstory to make a stand the “right fit” for a clear cut. These steps may include pre-commercial thinning and/or herbicide treatments to improve conditions for regeneration. There are also other factors that need to be addressed including soil drainage, erosion, deer browse, invasive plants and other competing vegetation (to name a few.)