Natural Neighborhood Management

Millions of homes have been built in forested areas.  Large tracts are often divided into many small lots, with houses, pools, and garages etc. nestled in amongst the trees.  People seem to want to get back to nature, have some privacy, and yet still live in close proximity to other people.  There is a growing environmental concern about this fragmentation and development of forests.

Many other neighborhoods in and around cities are becoming forested as yard trees are growing to large size.  These homeowners gradually realize that they are also forest owners.  In many locations, especially in older developments, larger individual trees can provide many natural benefits and contain very valuable wood.

People face many challenges dealing with the trees in their yards and small lots.  Tree removal is an expensive operation, and wood is usually not used - often just ending up in the landfill.  Little thought is given to long-term planning or forest level management.

Sustainable Forestry Cooperatives now offer a new opportunity for homeowners in forested neighborhoods, both rural and urban.  A local cooperative is a business that is organized, owned, and managed by the people it serves.  In this case, the need is to manage the trees for long-term benefits, collectively protect their homes from unnecessary risks, efficiently remove certain trees when necessary, and utilize the cut logs for value-added wood products.  The opportunity is to sell products to pay for the work, or at least subsidize the costs of the operation.

A group of home/forest owners could form a neighborhood association.  The neighborhood could join an existing cooperative, or several groups could form their own cooperative to collect enough wooded land to make the operations run efficiently.

A long-term management plan for the neighborhood area would be developed that would assist the owners in managing the trees in their yards while developing a more natural forest for the future.  The plan would describe the desired future condition of the forest, looking 100 years forward.  The goal would be to responsibly work with the forces of nature.  Environmental protection and restoration, insect (gypsy moth) & disease control, invasive plants and destructive animals (deer), fire risk management, and any other local management objectives would all be covered.

The neighborhood could organize all the needed tree work for a season and develop a map of the project.  A trained, well-equipped, and insured crew could then proceed efficiently through the area.  Logs that are produced would be taken to the coop sawmill for value-added processing whenever possible.  This organized approach would greatly reduce the costs of the tree service work compared to each forest owner individually contracting with a different tree service.  Processing the usable logs and marketing value-added products through the cooperative will generate considerable value to subsidize the tree work.  Normally trees removed from around houses are not Merchantable in traditional timber markets due to the likely occurrence of nails and other metal objects that people have attached to trees over the years.  The coop's thin kerf band sawmills can profitably saw metal contaminated logs.  In many cases the owner could actually make a profit as opposed to the usual outright cost of having a tree removed.

The lumber produced could be returned to the individual who owned the tree for personal use, wood could be used in neighborhood building projects, or the products could just be sold by the coop to generate cash flow. 

The common need for tree removal and woodlot management, powered by the value-added returns from the cooperative could be a major incentive for neighborhood associations to form.  Many other benefits could be produced as these people meet and work together to manage their forest environment for the future. 

The tree removal work could be done by contracting with an existing tree service company.  By offering steady work in an organized manner, a more affordable rate should be possible.  Another alternative is to form a new crew that is hired by the association or the cooperative.  The skilled directional fellers on the low impact logging crews could do much of this work when logging conditions in the forest are poor.  And if a tree is accidentally felled on a house, that would just mean more business for the cooperative!