By Aaron Lefland, Forestry and Stewardship Coordinator
During the cold winter months, our forestry team heads into the woods to continue Weston’s ongoing forest stand improvement project. Since the early 1980s, Land’s Sake has worked with the Weston Conservation Commission to rotationally manage parcels of town forest. As part of this process, unhealthy and low-grade trees are removed and turned into firewood. What remains are healthy, commercially valuable trees that will continue growing for years to come. This blog post discusses differing management strategies used to yield different forest compositions.
Understanding Rotational Harvesting and Improvement Cuts:
In order for a forestry operation to be sustainable, it is important that we understand how our activities impact the resource for which we are trying to manage, and ensure that resource continues to regenerate after we leave. One of the primary ways in which we ensure that our management is sustainable is by rotationally harvesting different parcels of forest. Most of the managed parcels around Weston are on a 15-20 year cycle. This means that once we cut a specific site, it will be allowed to regrow for at least 15 years before any more management occurs.
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In addition to rotational harvesting, Land’s Sake removes trees using an “improvement cut” or “pre-commercial thinning” approach. There are a number of different types of cuts that can be made to a forest, all of which fall under the art and science of silviculture. Depending on the desired composition of a forest, a landowner may decide to remove more or less trees, certain species of tree, or a certain quality of tree. Here in Weston, one of the main management objectives is to improve the timber quality of the forest. To do so, we selectively harvest trees that are of lower commercial value and leave straighter, healthier trees to regenerate the forest.
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By carrying out our improvement cuts on a rotational cycle, we ensure that there is a constant, sustained supply of the resource for which we are managing (trees!). This approach also minimizes any aesthetic or ecological impacts as a small percentage of total biomass is removed during each harvest.
A Different Management Objective; Sugar Maples:
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In most cases around Weston, improving the timber quality of the forest is one of the primary management objectives. However, in some instances, we also try to select for a special species; the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). As many of you know, Land’s Sake has been producing local maple syrup for decades (check out our Maple Sugaring page under the Forestry tab for more information!) and relies on the sap from hundreds of sugar maples to produce this delicious treat.
In the Sear’s Forest, there is a large stand of sugar maples mixed with a variety of other species (we call it our “sugar bush”). To promote the growth of these sugar maples and create a more productive sugar bush, we remove some of the larger Oaks, Birches, and Norway Maples that crowd out the younger Sugar Maples and compete for their resources. This allows the remaining sugar maples to grow faster and produce more sap, and allows us to make more of our delicious syrup.
Even though felling trees and making firewood seem fairly straightforward, it is important to realize that a lot of thought and work goes into properly managing a forest. Years of careful work by Land’s Sake has proven that we can sustainably harvest our forests and minimize any negative impacts in the process.
If you would like to learn more about the process we use to produce our firewood, feel free to stop by our worksite in the Highland forest and say hello. We are usually in the woods from 9-4 during the workweek and would be happy to talk more about the work we are doing to improve Weston’s forests.