Secret To Success - Vigorous Diameter Growth
While thinning our forest, our goal is for all the important crop trees to be gaining between one quarter and one half inch diameter growth each year. When thinning, we always start with taking the worst trees first.
The Wurst First - the Lesser Tree
The best forest management systems that I have seen are the Menominee Tribal forest in NE Wisconsin and the German Dauerwald. Full Vigor Forestry takes the very best ideas from the best systems. Hans Schabel, a forester originally from Germany who knows these systems well, described worst-first to me this way: Every tree has many values; aesthetic, wildlife habitat, seed source for regeneration, historic significance, natural diversity, ecological affects, timber products, etc. When a forest manager compares trees when selecting for harvest, you must consider all of the tree's values. Give each tree points for all of its values, coming to a total point value. Then remove the lesser value tree. Each person will do this a little differently, as Full Vigor Forestry is more art than science. Every forest manager in the world should know these excellent systems and practice 'state of the art' forestry - there is no excuse for ignorance in 2006!
The Myth of Site Quality
Traveling yesterday through central Wisconsin between flooring jobs, most of the forests were pretty scrubby looking, high-graded, overcrowded, and/or neglected. Then one small woodlot stood out, tall and straight and very impressive. Trees will grow just about anywhere if you allow them to mature without high grading the best out of forest. Full Vigor Forestry works well on 'poor' sites too! Management History is much more important than "Site Quality".
First and foremost - trees need sunlight to grow, and that is available everywhere in Wisconsin. Water is the second most important factor to tree growth and that too is pretty evenly distributed around here. Soil nutrients and other factors are also important, but don't worry about the fine points until the first two are fully utilized. Again, tree spacing - fine tuned by watching the diameter growth -controls the amount of light and water each tree receives - this is the key for forest growth management.
Secret to Success - Read the Story in the Stump
Every time I cut a tree down, or find a stump in the woods, I stop and read the history of that part of the forest. Many things are recorded there for me to see. The age of the tree, the stand harvest history, grazing, fires, etc. are all there. Every area in our 200 acre forest has a different history and I learn more each time I work. Knowing the past helps me make decisions about the future. When starting with the worst trees first, I'm pretty smart by the time I get to the good trees.
The most important thing to read in the stump is the last few years of growth rings. How was the tree growing? Normally, cutting worst first - the growth rate has been declining and the tree has lost its vigor. If I cut a good living tree and see one quarter inch growth rings right up to the bark, I screwed up! My hope is to keep thinning out suppressed, slow growing trees until the next tree to cut is growing in diameter at an acceptable rate - then stop for the year. Next