There is a tremendous amount of biological activities occurring within our Northern Hardwood forests. Most of these are overlooked or considered unimportant or insignificant when discussing the harvest of trees. Over the years I developed a great appreciation for the web of lives that rely on our forests for survival.
Let me ask; do you like seeing and hearing songbirds in your woods? Do you know how they will be impacted when you harvest trees? Did you know that the tree selection and timing of a harvest will have a direct effect on bird life within your woodlot? As an example, birds are mating, nesting and raising young in the months of April, May, June and July. Do you want to be cutting trees during this time?
Do you like seeing small mammals on your property on your morning walk? How will they be impacted during and after a harvest? Have we improved habitats for small mammals or removed trees that were providing significant habitats. Many have the opinion that declining trees, trees of poor form, hollow trees and or lower valued species need to be removed to make room for “better trees”. Removing all the crooked trees, trees with holes, fallen trees and certain species of tree will have major longer lasting influence the forest ecology.
What about reptiles and amphibians? Do your kids and grand kids get all excited when they catch a tree frog or roll over a log and find a salamander? Wood turtles, snakes, skinks, toads and others are also great finds.
All of these things are part of the forest ecology and are interwoven into the northern hardwood ecosystem. I believe these things are why people enjoy a walk in the woods, own properties, and generally love the forests.
History has been cruel to thousands of acres of pristine forests. Industry driven logging practices, farming, and short sightedness on the behalf of foresters and forest landowners have destroyed forest ecology, tree diversity, stand structure. As a result many of our northern forest have been relegated to producing low value wood products devoid of any ecological attributes once common to these ecosystems. Many of these woodlands will not recover in our life time.
So, what are some of the things that should be considered when working in our forests. After all, we depend on our forests for a variety of things. Commodities such a lumber drives most of the decision making. Not cutting trees is an option but not a practical one. We depend on forest products as a society and revenues from our forest help with land ownership for those of us that are not independently wealthy. Can we have ecological health and at the same time harvest trees? Of course we can!
Here are a few things to consider if you are interested in contemplating a timber harvest if the ecology of your woodlot is of significance to you.
In summary, don’t be afraid to harvest trees. When you do harvest trees give some thought and discuss the impacts the harvest will have on forest ecology.
Mike Meriwether, County Forester