From the Woodlot Wanderings series by Coös County Forester, Ray Berthiaume

  • Timber Stand

Hi folks, and Happy September! It doesn’t seem as though we should be staring at the fall season right around the corner, when it was the first week of the month that we finally had a nice stretch of summer-like weather. However, the weather never asks what we want or what we expect, so here we are. We have been talking about managing your woodlots and some of the topics that come up during those discussions. So, let’s continue along those lines by chatting about Timber Stand Improvement (TSI). Most of the forest lands that I have been invited to take a peek at have areas that would absolutely benefit from this treatment. TSI refers to a variety of non-commercial practices that improve growth, value, and regeneration of specifically desired species. Exactly which treatment is appropriate depends on forest stand type, species, growing site, and landowner goals. There are times where tsi means pruning branches from the lower trunk of your preferred trees. This is typically done when the trees are younger and smaller, perhaps 4”-6” in diameter at breast height and no larger than 10”. This practice will remove all branches for the lower 16 -24 feet, which will allow the development of a clear bole or stem. This will mean more clear, knot-free boards once the tree has been harvested and sent to the sawmill.

Timber Stand

Once thinning has been completed, removing (pruning) the lower limbs will increase potential value in the future.

TSI work can also mean removing competing stems from more desirable trees. This practice is designed to remove competing crowns from that of a preferred tree. This ‘preferred’ tree may be of a more commercially valuable species, or a healthier looking and growing individual tree, or a tree that is deemed more desirable for any other reason. Trees grow together, reaching upward toward the sun to capture as much of its lifegiving energy as possible. In doing so, they grow tall and slender, and not very strong to withstand wind and heavy snows. By removing, thinning, some of the competing crowns, the desired tree no longer has to hurry to the top and can now start adding girth and strength. In doing this, the crown of the desired tree will grow to fill the hole(s) left by those trees that were removed. The resulting tree is able to grow larger, and stronger, and is much less susceptible to Mother Nature’s fury. The trees that are removed are typically left to provide habitat for many small wildlife species as it decays and adds nutrients back into the soil.

White Birch and Tamarack

Here the landowner may favor one of the White Birch trees, or perhaps the Eastern Larch (Tamarack) tree to the right. There really is no wrong answer.

TSI is also a good practice to undertake to promote higher-value crop trees. These higher-value trees should be healthier, more appealing to the landowner, and potentially provide a higher-value product should they be harvested in the future. Both practices mentioned may also be accomplished together. The pruning should take place after the thinning/release treatment has been completed.


Sugar Maple Trees

Here the straighter Sugar Maple would most likely be the chosen favorite and other, poorer quality stems removed. This will allow the ‘favored’ Sugar Maple to thrive and provide the best opportunity to improve quality and potential value.

Both procedures, the pruning and the thinning, are very labor intensive. Pruning is typically done by an individual operating a motorized, or a manual, pole saw or pruning saw. Branches are removed individually and either taken to a brush pile or left on the ground to dry and decay. Thinning is also done by an individual, but here he/she is wielding a chainsaw or brush saw to do the cutting. This is the practice of removing the competing trees from around the preferred one. The harvested trees may be taken to a brush pile or left to lie on the ground and decay. At times they may be left leaning against some of the remaining trees. This will certainly prolong the decaying process but continues to provide food and habitat for many of our woodland inhabitants. One of the biggest concerns to our landowners when it comes to conducting this management practice, is cost. Since there are no commercial products that come from the activity, and since most of the time the work must be contracted out to a professional, there is definitely a cost associated. Alone that can be an obstacle to the landowner. However, with the help from a Certified Technical Service Provider (tsp), there are cost-sharing opportunities through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. An application must be presented, and a practice plan drawn up by the tsp. This plan is submitted to the NRCS office where it is reviewed, and a decision made to fund the project. Once this occurs, the work may begin. As County Foresters, we can point out areas on your woodlot that would benefit from these treatments, connect you with those who may conduct the work, as well as help get you set up with our partners from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) for possible funding assistance. We are your resource for all things forestry and natural resources related.

Have a question about your woods? Contact your Extension County Forester today!

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Natural Resources, Coös County Forester
Extension Field Specialist, Forestry
Office: UNH Cooperative Extension Natural Resources, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824