July 14, 2013

Managing New York's forests


Unfortunately, many forest owners never even take the first step in managing their property. No doubt a lot of them would like to protect and enhance their forest resources, but hesitate to do so due to a lack of time or knowledge.

Others high-grade or clear cut their forests for fast cash. High-grading is the practice of removing the trees with the highest market value. While this results in immediate financial gain, it sacrifices long-term quality. The remaining trees, which represent the seed source for future forests, are often malformed or diseased, slow-growing, small, less desirable species and/or less suited to the site. Only poor-quality trees remain and the value of subsequent harvests is reduced.

Well planned timber harvesting employs removal of both high-and low-value trees. Trees that are poorly formed or lacking vigor are taken out, although some hollow or large crooked trees may be left behind as dens for wildlife. This requires more effort and results in less profit now, but the long-term benefits can include a healthier, more productive stand that is much more aesthetically pleasing and offers a steady supply of firewood, improved wildlife habitat and greater sustainable profitability, producing revenue at regular intervals — every five, 10 years, 15 years — forever.

When creating a management plan, the goals should be clear, direct and realistic. Let’s say improving habitat and recreation are among them. For a hunter, that might mean creating and managing food plots in clearings and cutting to create browse and/or sightlines for deer stands. For a birdwatcher, it may mean leaving old-growth forest, favoring trees that will attract desired species and creating clearings with dead trees to attract cavity nesters. For a hiker, it could mean creating walking trails.

To find out more about creating a forest management plan, contact your local DEC or Cornell Cooperative Extension office and consider becoming a member of the New York Forest Owners Association (

Richard L. Gast, Extension program educator II, Horticulture, Natural Resources, Energy; agriculture programs assistant, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, 355 West Main St., Suite 150, Malone, 12953. Call 483-7403, fax 483-6214 or email

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