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ESCANABA – Timber harvests are prescribed to obtain timber products. Equally important, and in some cases more important, is to encourage regeneration and improve stand conditions.

Harvesting timber sometimes evokes perceptions of lost forests, damaged environments and greed. While each of these things has happened, and in some cases still does, harvesting timber is actually one of the most environmentally friendly ways to extract raw materials, especially when it is. carried out using effective planning and best management practices for soil and water protection.

Raw materials are what human society depends on. Wood is the raw material that not only has the least negative impact on the environment, but is often used to improve and orient future forest resources in a positive way, to rebuild forests in a healthier condition. Healthy forests provide a myriad of goods and services, including timber. The combined environmental and economic benefits of harvesting timber are not immediately intuitive to some people.

How, you might ask, could this be? An excellent question with multiple answers.

First of all, our forests aren’t pristine to begin with, despite what may seem like wilderness to some, and despite tourism marketing. They were fiercely altered by historic logging and the ensuing forest fires. Fortunately, the temperate forests of the Lake States are very resilient. Many of our forest types are designed for catastrophic disturbance, but not quite on the scale of the Paul Bunyan era.

These secondary forests that have developed over the last century are not the same as the pre-Euro-American forests. We won’t see them again. In addition, forests are currently threatened by climate change, exotic species and record overgrazing by deer.

Some environmental ethicists insist that the responsible course of action is to actively manage these modified and threatened forests to the best of our collective abilities. Aldo Leopold incorporated this idea into his essay on land ethics. This is where forest management comes into play. And, timber harvesting is a key tool in the forest management arsenal.

There appear to be two major barriers to social acceptance of the many ecological benefits of timber harvesting.

First, changes in visual quality hamper the public’s perception of timber harvesting, especially clearcutting. Despite all the science and experience to show otherwise, any forest that has undergone a significant visual change is frequently labeled as damaged or degraded. Visual quality is a particularly poor measure of ecological integrity.

Second, wildlife populations are believed to be affected, and wildlife is near and dear to the hearts of many. However, a timber harvest creates winners and losers for wildlife, just like not harvesting. These futures are our choice, with benign neglect as a choice.

It is sometimes a bit of a stretch for some people to appreciate the dynamics of wildlife populations at the landscape level and over time. Considering the general aging of Lake State forests and the decline of young forest wildlife populations, timber harvesting is a wonderful boon for many species of wildlife.

Regardless of the sheer volume of knowledge about timber harvesting, planning a harvest on your own timber can be a bit scary. The same is often true of appreciating a harvest that took place in a preferred location on a public or private forest.

Working with a professional forester goes a long way in ensuring that forestry practices are implemented for good and in a sustainable and thoughtful way. Foresters will help explain the what, how and when of building a desired forest future through management. And, do not be afraid to generate income from a forest. It is only thanks to this financial and economic system that management can be done.

Most forest owners are not particularly interested in trees as lumber (ropes and planks) until sums such as $ 50,000 or more are spent, or tuition money is needed. or a wooded lot is about to be sold. Too often, forest owners jump at the first offer. A management plan, which traces the trajectory of a forest owner’s wishes, should include rough monetary estimates of the value of the timber and what should be harvested and what should not be harvested. It should also be noted that these cutting values ​​can fluctuate wildly in as little as a year or even less.

Finding a forester is not as daunting as some might think. At least four organizations can help forest owners in this direction; Conservation Districts, Association of Consulting Foresters, Tree Farm Program, and Michigan Forest Association. There are others as well, and similar groups in most states. And then the Internet also has a wide array of resources, some good, some of them, well, less than good.

However, for most family forest owners, word of mouth will often generate one or two good contacts.

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