Woodland Management Issues
Woodlands at Big Rock Valley are primarily northern mixed hardwoods. Some of the tree species on the property include maple, beech, oak, hickory, black cherry, hackberry, ash, elm, tulip poplar, aspen, walnut, hornbeam and birch.
Woodland Management Units
The foundation has divided its woodland areas into management units. Every other year we look at a designated unit and, if necessary, implement appropriate management activities and/or a thinning harvest. There are enough units that typically 12 years pass between management activities or thinning harvests on an individual parcel.
When we conduct a thinning harvest, a forester marks the trees that he feels need to be removed because of spacing or health issues. We manage woodlands for diversity and long-term sustainability. In most other woodlands, trees that reach a diameter of about 22 inches (known as economic maturity) are harvested. In our management strategy, we require that some large trees be left in scattered clusters. Trees are not felled just because they are large. In fact, it’s common to see trees that are 30 inches in diameter or larger at Big Rock Valley. These large trees no longer produce wood mass as quickly as smaller trees, but their height and full canopy create unique microhabitats.
Managing for Old-Growth Trees
The foundation has designated about 10 percent of its wooded acreage (about 100 acres) to be managed as old-growth woodlands. These areas are basically “no-harvest” areas. We still do thinning if it is warranted due to health or spacing issues, but when we do thin in an old-growth designated area, entire tree and logs are left in the woods to decay over time.
Components of an Old-Growth Woods
Some of major components of old-growth woods include:
- Trees of all age classes present.
- Massive quantities of large, decaying logs
- Open areas with lots of light, created by mature canopy trees dying or blowing over.
- Large craters created when big trees fall over and uproot.
Large, decaying logs are probably one of the most important components of old-growth woods, because they create a sponge effect and keep the area moist even in dry periods. In addition, these logs slow down the wind and evaporation along the soil surface.
Woodland Management Demonstration Plots
The foundation has been developing adjoining woodland management demonstration plots, which clearly show the effects of different management styles on wooded areas. The management styles used in the demonstration plots include:
- High-intensity timber management.
- Natural or no management.
- Management for old-growth woodlands.
- Management for environmental diversity, which is our predominant management style.