Got Trees? Woodlot Group to Host Sessions at New York Farm Show

new york forest owners association logo

Woodlot professionals who attend the New York Farm Show can learn some useful information from the New York Forest Owners Association seminars.

During the New York Farm Show starting Thursday, February 23, the New York Forest Owners Association will hold three days of seminars for woodlot professionals at the “Got Trees? Get More from Your Woodlot: Learn More, Earn More” event.

“My overall objective in the seminars has been to meet the needs of family forest owners in New York State,” said Hugh Canham, speaker and event organizer for the event. The majority of New York’s 18.5 million acres of forest land are owned by individuals in plots averaging 60 acres, but as few as five or up to 500 or 600 acres.

“(Forest owners are) interested in a wide variety of things,” Canham explained. “Some people really don’t know what they want to do with their lands. Some people have had a timber sale or have been approached by a logger — some people want to go hunting or skiing on their land.”

Presentations are scheduled every hour with speakers talking for approximately 40 minutes, leaving time for audience questions. On Friday, a legal professional will cover the rights and responsibilities of a forest owner, and also touch upon general things to give attendees an awareness of the business of property ownership.

Foresters will also discuss how woodlot owners can determine how much of a woodlot’s timber is recoverable and marketable. This session will also cover methods of calculating how much lumber, pulpwood or firewood is available from woodlots.

Closing the three-day seminar, Canham will host a talk on income tax considerations. He’ll cover the differences between ordinary income and capital gains. Other tax topics he’ll cover include expensing considerations and active versus  passive management considerations regarding timber sales.

Canham said the sessions will highlight the importance of speaking with woodlot professionals, professional consulting foresters or experts from state agencies or universities. Such communication is important for forest land to stay healthy and owners can achieve a fair market sale.

Another topic at the woodlot session: deer hunting. Canham explained that permitting deer hunting requires forestry care, but also can act in concert with responsible forest management.

“If you want to have deer on your property, that’s something you can manage for,” he said. “However, if you’re not careful, you can have too many deer and they will eat down the reproduction so that you won’t have the desirable tree species that you’d want there.”

The New York Farm Show will be held at the Syracuse Fairgrounds in Syracuse, New York, February 23-25.

Choosing a Professional Forester: Finding Value

image-of-a-log

If you’re looking to maintain a healthier and valuable forest, a forester may be right down your alley.

If you’re looking to maintain a healthier and valuable forest, a forester may be right down your alley. A professional forester can help landowners harvest timber efficiently, and is a valuable resource when beginning a timber sale. These two qualities work hand in hand.

In order to realize a proper growth cycle and a chance to grow revenue for your operations, a landowner must ask “What are my objectives?” advised Jeffrey Gossert, owner of J.L. Gossert and Co. Forestry, a woodland resource management and timber marketing services in York, Pennsylvania.

What to Look For?

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources compiled a list of factors to consider when considering a professional forester:

Education

A forester should have a minimum two-year degree (four year preferred) in forestry and be able to provide documentation upon request.

Work Experience

A forester should have documented work experience in the types of services you need in the management of your forest. Foresters should always balance resource concerns with your goals and interests.

Availability, Services and Fees

Does the forester offer the services you are looking for? Discuss his/her availability to do the work and the time frame to complete it. What fees are associated with that service?

Who Will Be Working on the Property?

Will the forestry consultant, contractors, technicians, interns or others be working on your property?

Local References

A forester should be able to provide at least three references for forest landowners they have recently done business with. Contact these references to determine the forester’s: Reliability Responsiveness/Follow-up Communication skills Quality of work Professionalism

Professional Certifications

Does the forester have membership in the Association of Consulting Foresters, Society of American Foresters Certified Forester Program and/or your state council of professional foresters? These organizations promote high standards of professionalism for members along with a code of ethics.

One thing to consider for landowners, for example, is the number of acres in your lot. What will be the use of your woodlot? Will you use it for keeping wildlife? Conservation? Income? When drafting a management plan with a landowner, Gossert said he uses a three-step approach:

1. Weed out the garden.

Like a garden, a forest has its weeds, too. Weeding takes out the damaged or diseased stems that are growing alongside the more valuable stems. “We call them “undesirable stock,” Gossert said. “They have some growth characteristics but it may not be better in five, 10 years, so we weed it out.”

2. Thin out the crowded group.

“There are trees of all kinds and of all sizes. So, if you have two or more trees together, they compete with one another,” Gossert noted.

Thinning promotes the growth of healthy trees for a healthier forest. It allows room for the trees to mature into value assets such as food-producing trees or accelerated growth.

“It makes sense to thin out one tree so the other can flourish,” Gossert said. “For the producer, it’s great because trees can grow at a faster rate.”

3. Cutting the mature.

“This step gets into the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ part of the ‘Do I want to do this?’ situation,” Gossert warned. “Like corn and soybeans, you have to ask yourself, ‘Do you have a crop that is mature?’ When is a tree mature and when is it mature enough to cut?”

Gossert explained that the answer varies by the soil structure of a tree’s growth. Functioning soil helps the roots of the tree propagate.

“For example, an 80-year-old tree on a poor soil type may be 12 inches in diameter,” he said. “On a good soil type, it’s 24 inches in diameter.”

Ultimately, the result should be a bell-shaped appearance for your woodlot, Gossert noted. Healthy stems can grow to mature trees or “money trees” for potential earning power for landowners. A successful management plan allows for a reasonable multi-year growing cycle as well as a clear forest.

“Tell the landowner to not cut a good tree unless it’s in that 18-24 inch diameter,” Gossert said. “Sometimes, they just don’t know. Someone comes along and chops all the trees down. It looks great in the distance but you get closer and see crooked trees all over the place. Looks can be deceiving.”

Read more: Which Woodlot Professional Do I Need?

Photo: UroshPetrovic/istock


Which Woodlot Professional Do I Need?

logger-at-work

You can do-it-yourself a lot in your woods, but for the really big stuff, like harvesting timber, it’s useful to get professional help. But how do you decide which professionals to use?

When talking trees, you’ll see three job titles most often: forester, logger and arborist. These titles might sound similar, but they have very different educational backgrounds, skills and services.

arborist-climbing-a-tree
Arborists specialize in individual tree care, often in urban or suburban settings. They routinely have to climb trees and bring them down in parts to avoid hitting powerlines, buildings and other obstacles.

Arborists

Arborists focus on individual trees like those in your lawn, which is why you’ll often see them described as “tree care” or “tree service” professionals. If you’re having the maple in your backyard pruned, you’re most likely hiring an arborist to do that work.

For projects in your woods, though, arborists generally won’t be your first choice.

Foresters

What’s the difference between foresters and loggers? Say you’re having a house built. An architect draws up the plans for what the house should look like. Then the construction team uses those plans to build the house you want.

Foresters are like architects for the woods. College-trained, usually with a bachelor’s degree in forestry, foresters develop a plan for how to care for each section of woods on your land. They base that plan on what you own and what you want. Do you want to grow high-value timber? Do you want to attract certain species of wildlife? Maybe you have a mix of things you’d like to see and do in your woods. Foresters have the knowledge to work with what your land has to move it toward what you’d like it to be. If that plan includes harvesting timber, your forester will oversee the sale, helping attract reputable buyers and then making sure the terms of the sale contract are carried out.

logger removing a tree
Loggers focus on the safe, efficient removal of trees from the woods. If you’re having a professional do on-the-ground work in your woods, a logger is likely who you would need.

Loggers

If foresters are the architects, loggers are the construction team. They’re the boots on the ground carrying out the plan you and your forester developed. Their focus is on safe, efficient removal of trees from your woods. They’re also the ones usually doing any trail work needed as part of a timber harvest, such as installing best management practices to keep trails stable and protect streams.

So how do you find these professionals? For arborists, the International Society of Arboriculture maintains a searchable database. For foresters there’s no single list, but states often have their own lists of qualified professionals. In my book “Backyard Woodland,” I include links to forester lists by state as well as tips on how to choose a forester who will work well with you. Finally, when it comes to loggers, look for those with third-party certification. In New York State, the certification is “Trained Logger Certified.” Different states have their own programs. Regardless of your location, though, certified loggers will have taken time to get continuing education in safety and environmental stewardship. By working with them, you’re more likely to get a higher quality professional and a better result when harvesting timber.


Why It’s Important to Contain Woodland Ferns

image of ferns

New York fern, hay-scented fern and bracken ferns are the major culprits in this woodlot management issue.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, more than 20 percent of the total forested area of the state of Pennsylvania suffers from invasive, debilitating fern-dominated understory. That likely includes sections of your woodlot.

Estimates by the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Forest Research Station indicate the 3.7 million acres of Keystone State land with fern understory is typical of that found across the Northeast and up into New England.

New York fern, hay-scented fern and bracken ferns are the major culprits in this woodlot management issue. These are single-frond ferns (because the fronds or leaves grow singly without the circular clumps found in clump ferns). Single-frond ferns spread aggressively via rhizomes, pushing their shoots underground and popping them up through the soil at random, but frequent, intervals.

The clump ferns in our area are the Christmas fern, interrupted fern, sword fern and wood fern. While they dot the understory, they spread slowly and rarely create the dense blankets that the single-frond ferns create. Since they do not create shade competition with trees, the clump ferns are generally seen as more benign.

None of the common single-frond species are new to the Northeast. Yet their aggressive competition with valuable tree species is recent. With the shade these ferns spread on the forest floor, valuable species like oak, maple and black cherry cannot develop. In one study by the U.S. Forest Service, the number of desirable sugar maple, red maple and black cherry seedlings that were found after five years competing with hay-scented fern numbered 19,000 per acre. In the fenced experimental area kept free of ferns, there were 106,000 desirable tree seedlings per acre.

Fern stunts the growth of seedlings that manage to survive the shading. In a separate U.S. Forest Service study where deer and fern were kept out, the typical black cherry seedling grew nearly 5 feet – 55 inches – over the five-year study period. In the presence of hay-scented fern, those seedlings eked out less than a foot – just 11 inches – of growth in a five-year span.

Ferns are not the only species that compete with timber. Striped maple is a major weed pest. Despite being the Pennsylvania state plant, mountain laurel is another. Species like American beech, ironwood and spicebush are probably best excluded from woodlots.

Competition can inhibit regeneration of desirable plants like native wildflowers, forbs and herbs.

Any time ferns cover 30 percent or more of an area, they are likely to dominate the understory and interfere with reestablishment and growth of tree seedlings.

Researchers with the forest service say there are two likely culprits. One is natural, the other human-induced.

Oh, deer

Virginia white-tail deer are “Forest Enemy No. 1” when it comes to fern proliferation. Where deer impact is high, fern and other less-preferred browse species dominate the forest understory.

Many feel that fern understories are a legacy effect of decades of overabundant deer herds.

Before you suggest you’ve never seen a deer chow down on fern (and fern is, indeed, not a top choice for deer), keep in mind that deer are selective browsers. They do eat native hardwood seedlings, blackberry and plants like Canada mayflower, trillium, lady slippers and even woody species like devils club. By selectively browsing preferred plants, the deer allow nonpreferred plants – single-frond ferns, for example – to proliferate and spread.

While the game commission loves to see scads of deer out in the forest, all of those nonresilient plants are cowering when they see deer coming. Browsing pressure can completely eliminate those plants in the understory. The result is a forest floor that is dominated by plants deer avoid: fern and huckleberry, for example. Another indicator in a woodlot is presence of a “browse line” – typically about 5 feet above the ground where deer have eaten everything desirable from that level down. It is easy to see on species like oak, maple, ash and poplar. It does not take long. A deer can pack away 4 to 8 pounds of browse per day for seven months of the year.

While down from all-time highs in the 1960s and 1970s, deer populations in many areas are well above carrying capacity all across the Northeast.

Even in areas where deer numbers are reasonable, poor-quality areas will continue to decline as deer feeding removes desired browse species and ferns spread their footprint.

Since ferns can grow in areas where there is shade and full sunlight, they quickly out-compete other vegetation including tree seedlings.

Human impact

As a woodlot owner or manager, you frequently roll across your land for many reasons. Travel on tracked vehicles with metal cleats or sharp-edged new rubber tires are one of the big ways ferns get a jumpstart on proliferation.

Remember that single-frond ferns spread aggressively via rhizomes. A tracked vehicle will break all those rhizomes up into shorter pieces. Instead of one rhizome popping up on the woodland floor, there now are a half dozen for each one snapped and resnapped by the equipment.

Sometimes these places are easy to spot. Foresters will look for “fern tracks,” those foot-wide, parallel lines where ferns seem to be positively dense. Most likely, they are caused by equipment.

Ironically, those fern tracks might be caused by the very vehicles deployed to control ferns and other woodland weeds: the spray rigs that typically treat for understory weeds.

The best materials for control of ferns are sulfometuron-methyl (sold as Oust), glyphosate (sold as Roundup) or the two in combination. The materials are approved for use in ground-based air-blast sprayers or backpack mist blowers. Note that Oust has no herbicidal effect on beech or striped maple.

Roundup usually is applied at 1 to 2 quarts per acre and Oust at 2 ounces per acre. Both can be applied as broadcast foliar applications at those rates – but check label specifications first.

Early July, once there is full leaf expansion, that is the best time to apply either material. Quit by mid-September to early October.

Addition of Oust to Roundup seems to handle the fern track problem as well as grass and sedge re-invasion. Oust is soil-active and readily taken up by fern rhizomes. It has some pre-emergence activity as well.

Producers who shun herbicides can attempt mechanical control. However, in a forest setting, cutting and pulling are not as effective at controlling pest species. Too often, competing plants are broken off or the root is not fully pulled and they resprout. In some cases, the pest species is set back enough that the desired species can get sufficiently ahead of them and thrive.

To decide whether to treat, set out a half-dozen or so plots. The area covered by a circle with a 37.2-foot radius represents one-tenth of an acre. Be sure to spread the plot areas out throughout the woodlot.

If you find fern cover is 30 percent or greater on 30 percent or more of the plots, take steps to remove fern cover throughout the woodlot.


Pennsylvania Eases Tax Burden on Logging Equipment

PA-Lawmakers-Yell-Timber

Owners of logging equipment in Pennsylvania might have thought they worked on tree farms with tree farming equipment. However, until a month or two ago, they did not. They ran tree “something-elses.”

A sales tax exemption on logging equipment will become effective July 1, 2017.

Thanks to changes in the new tax revenue law signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in July, equipment used on tree farms is considered farm equipment. That means loggers no longer are required to pay sales taxes on their purchase of equipment that is similar or even identical to tax equipment used at both farms and sawmills.

Under the bill signed into law, there is an exemption that will allow loggers to have a few more bucks in their budgets when they shop for skidders, feller bunchers, harvesters and forwarders.

“It took us three terms (of the legislature) to get this measure through,” said Paul Lyskava, executive director of the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association (PFPA).

The state sales tax is 6 percent. A few counties or cities add local sales taxes on top of that. Under the new law, a logger who purchases a $40,000 piece of equipment will save $2,400 before even starting up. Even smaller purchases (a $5,000 unit) will keep $300 in the buyer’s wallet.

“The legislation will provide loggers with the sales tax exclusion that has been available to both farmers and forest product mills related to the purchase of equipment, material and services,” said Lyskava. Farmers have long enjoyed a sales tax exemption on haying, plowing and similar equipment.

Should loggers in the market for new equipment hold off longer before investing in machinery? The big question is whether to postpone purchases until after July 1, 2017 to save the sales tax. In the short term, there may not be an advantage to that, especially if there are good tax reasons to invest in the current fiscal or calendar year.

However, at the PFPA’s next trade show (June 9-10 at the Ag Progress Days site near State College), Lyskava said PFPA will talk to loggers about putting off purchases until July 1 to take advantage of the sales tax break.

“If you are looking at making a big-money purchase around the time of the Show, wait until after our Show,” Lyskava said. “But at this point I don’t think we are calling on people to put off any purchases.”

The driving force behind this measure was 75th District Pennsylvania State Representative Matt Gabler of Elk County. Largely due to his efforts in conjunction with PFPA and the local Farm Bureau, the provision exempting logging equipment made it into the tax bill. Gabler had sponsored a stand-alone measure in the House, which was approved by the House last year and in previous legislative sessions. His measure garnered bipartisan support.

“I am proud to serve the citizens of Pennsylvania in working to enact a bipartisan budget agreement while continuing to fight to protect taxpayers from unnecessary and burdensome tax increases,” Gabler said in a prepared statement following the passage of the legislation.

“I believe the product we delivered, while not perfect, is a taxpayer-friendly package that enables us to balance our budget and pay our bills. While additional work is needed to control costs and seek savings in the coming year, it is important that we start with a budget that leaves the Commonwealth on solid financial footing,” Gabler added.

Under the new legislation, the all-important word “timbering” is added to the current definition of farming. Included under the broad heading of timbering are “the business of producing or harvesting trees from forests, woodlots or tree farms for the purpose of commercial production of wood, paper or energy products derived from wood by a company primarily engaged in the business of harvesting trees.”

The law explains what is covered in the Act: “All operations prior to the transport of the harvest product necessary to for removal of timber and forest products from the site, in-field processing of trees into logs or chips, complying with environmental protection and safety requirements applicable to the harvest of forest products, loading of forest products onto highway vehicles for transport to storage or processing facilities and post-harvest site reclamation, including those activities necessary to improve timber growth or ensure natural or direct reforestation of the site.”

Gabler said his efforts to “level the playing field for our timber harvesters” was a five-year struggle. “House Bill 1198 would exclude from sales tax the purchase of machinery, equipment and parts used in timbering. This initiative recognizes that the timber industry belongs in the same category with farming, dairy and manufacturing in receiving this exclusion, since sales tax is collected when the final product is sold at retail. This provision I fought to include in our budget package will make a positive impact on the jobs climate in our area,” Gabler said.

There seemed little hardcore resistance to the concept behind HB 1198. The real problem was the animosity on both sides of the aisle to cooperating on legislation. As a result, a year ago worthy legislation like HB 1198 moved slower than peanut butter flowing uphill. This year, it became law.

More good news

There was other good news for the forest products industry in the current budget. Just 13 agricultural line items were increased in the present budget bill. One was a boost in the Hardwoods Research and Promotion program.

The increase of this program amounts to $385,000 or a full 10 percent.

The absolute number of dollars is modest, which means the Hardwoods program got twice the average amount awarded to ag programs. Overall, the Agriculture budget saw a 5 percent increase.

This is doubly good news since, during the last budget cycle, the Hardwoods program was one of the last programs to get its money – last year’s allocated funds were not released until May.

The next step for PFPA will be to work with the Governor’s office to develop policy guidelines for the forest products and conservation industry. Look for details on that initiative sometime before the new year.

The Hardwoods Council is expected to split the bulk of the funds among three hardwood utilization groups and the rest will be allocated by the Council at its November meeting.

Cover Photo: Ramonespelt & Serjio74/istock

What to Do When There’s a Log-Splitter Accident

log splitter accident

Even the most experienced worker can be caught by surprise in the woodlot.

Even the most experienced worker can be caught by surprise in the woodlot. Sometimes, a decision made months earlier can come back to grab you by surprise. Other times, it is a moment’s inattention that proves hazardous.

Such was the case with Dan Sweet of Danville, Vermont, when he came into a load of logs, cheap. Splitting the wood was a job he actually looked forward to doing.

“I find splitting wood to be very relaxing; it takes my mind off other things,” he said.

Usually Sweet’s woodlot projects only involve cutting trees on the family farm. However, their son Jason got a good deal on a load of logs, and decided to dump them on the edge of the family property to give his Dad a project for the whole summer. Luckily, they have a big lawn for stacking the timber.

“My son Jason bought 12 cords of wood at a good rate this year and dumped it on the side of the lawn,” Sweet said. Jason figured it would be a good father-son project to cut the logs up and sell more firewood than they normally would.

“I find it is better to run a wood splitter alone,” Dan said. “If Jason is helping me, I have to watch his hands and mine. If he is running the cylinder lever, he needs to watch my hands and make sure he doesn’t pull it too quickly.”

In short, many hands – rather than making light work – add a degree of difficulty.

The accident

On a Saturday afternoon in July, Dan was splitting 16-inch firewood with the log splitter by himself.

“I was in a hurry, thinking about something else and not paying attention,” Dan said. “I put the piece of wood onto the tray and pushed the lever running the hydraulic cylinder.”

In an instant, as the wood was getting pushed to the backstop, Sweet’s right index finger got stuck between the backstop and the piece of wood. “Of course I immediately pulled back on the lever…but it was too late, my finger was squashed.”

Luckily – or, perhaps, safely – Sweet had done one thing right. He had donned safety equipment before he started, namely. Key at this point was the pair of gloves he was wearing. The gloves softened the blow a bit and probably saved his finger.

“My finger hurt from the tip to the middle knuckle. It was in severe pain so I ran to the house where my wife, Barb, was working,” he recalled. He knew he was in a world of hurt. He lowered himself down onto the ground because he thought he was going to pass out.

“Barb was in the garden working and she said when she saw me holding my finger, she knew exactly what happened. My mother-in-law is a nurse so she came to look at me and to avoid a hospital trip,” he said.

He was fortunate in the outcome. “I was really weak for the rest of the day,” he said. He is doubly lucky since he has a friend who lost the end of his finger due to a wood splitter.

He had to keep the finger bandaged tightly for some time. “I could not use my right hand, either,” he said, noting that his finger is still flattened some. Cold bothered it for months. If he is like many others with damaged digits, weather changes will be foretold by miscellaneous aches through the years.

Around the woodlot

“I have 10 acres and thin some wood off the adjoining family farm,” Sweet said. The firewood is maple, beech, yellow birch and ash.

“The main purpose is to cut firewood for my stove and sell to the neighbors,” Sweet said. He cuts about four cords a year for his family’s use and about six for the neighbors. In addition, he also cuts trees to make sugaring roads and thin any trees that might affect sap lines.

Sweet has a 20-ton splitter with a 6.5-hp Briggs and Stratton engine. “It has worked fine,” he said. It can split logs up to two 2 feet diameter and 24 feet long.

“I have had it for eight years,” he said. “Definitely if a wood lot owner wants a firewood business then they should purchase a wood processor,” he said. He offers some observations from a man who has brushed shoulders with what could have been a serious incident.

Safety advice

As a parting word of advice, Sweet advised others in the woods that it is necessary to stay hydrated and alert. “If possible, I try to be in the shade during the hot summer,” he added.

His advice: Pay attention when operating machinery. “Give that equipment 100 percent of your attention,” he said. “Don’t hurry. Hurrying causes accidents.”

At any woodland job, safety has to be a priority. That starts with maintaining the machinery properly – from the engine to the mechanical parts.

“I always wear gloves and ear protection and watch out for loose sleeves,” Sweet said. “I know I should wear eye protection too,” he concluded.

Read more: Mechanized Harvesting Safety

Photo by Jessica Sweet

Tips to Attack Pruning and Trimming Problems

tree-trimming-fiskars-tools

Got tree pruning to do? Don’t want to drag out the ladder and try to bring down branches while the ladder wiggles and waggles? There are ways to avoid that.

Got tree pruning to do? Don’t want to drag out the ladder and try to bring down branches while the ladder wiggles and waggles? There are ways to avoid that.

Actually there are several ways to attack those pruning problems, and they vary according to such issues as the height the unnecessary branches, thickness of the branches to be cut and whether the branch is composed of live or dead wood. Tools vary, too, from simple one-hand operated pruning shears, to long-handled loppers, to pole saws with fixed blades or lightweight motorized saws.

Safety is an issue in pruning as well. Limb loppers eliminate much of the need for climbing a ladder. Most safety studies place falls from ladders among the top causes of injury. When dealing with sharp tools, caution is always advised, along with a good pair of gloves, safety glasses and a hard hat. Also, don’t stand directly under the branch you’re cutting, in case you suddenly find out why you need a hard hat.

Here’s a short list of good horticultural reasons for trimming and pruning trees:

  • Young trees especially need pruning and or trimming to develop a strong structure. Landscape trees such as autumn blaze maples and little leaf lindens can be prone to poor structure. Taller apple trees need to be trained to a central leader.
  • Remove dead wood before it decays, and rot enters the tree.
  • Remove hazardous dead branches.
  • Provide clearance for outbuildings, sheds and power or telephone lines.
  • Trimming and pruning decreases risk of storm damage. It is better to trim a limb now than to have the tree suffer a split limb or fork due to an ice storm or high winds.
  • Proper pruning ensures that trees will have a long, healthy life.
  • Trimming will help to provide a safe environment for yourself, your workers and your neighbors.
  • Well-cared-for trees are aesthetically pleasing.

Photo: Fiskars

Why Skidding Wood Out of the Forest is Important

skidding wood

It’s possible to double the amount of wood grown and harvested while keeping intact other forest values such as tourism.

New Englanders rely heavily on their forests for the region’s high quality drinking water, clean and cool air, and some 30,000 jobs in the forest products industry. Those forests also heat 14 percent of New England homes. Trees are essential for quality of life as well as economic competitiveness of the region.

A recent report by the New England Forestry Foundation maintains that it is possible to double the amount of wood grown and harvested – and improve water quality as well – while keeping intact other forest values such as tourism.

“If more landowners employ exemplary forest practices using proven silvicultural techniques we can transform our forests, not just in terms of the wood produced, but also for wildlife and other values,” the report stated.

The biggest impact to forests, other than conversion to a non-forest use, is the result of forest harvesting activities. Truck roads, skidder trails and the use of heavy equipment, while essential to wood harvesting activity, can be damaging to the woodland environment. They can also have a negative effect on water quality and soil erosion.

Water quality degradation and soil erosion can be serious problems if best management practices (BMPs) are not followed. Virtually all the forested states in our country have put such BMPs in place, and have had them for years. It’s no longer regular practice to operate a woodlot in such a way as to degrade water quality or soil.

Following are some logging products mentioned:

  • Timber Tuff Log Tongs Model TMW-03ss handles various log sizes. These tongs are made of heavy-duty steel construction.
  • Koch Industries grade 70 self-colored logging chain is 20 feet of 3/8-inch heat treated carbon steel. The chain is equipped with clevis hook on each end.
  • Rugged Ridge snatch block pulley offers 8,000-lb. working load, handles up to 1/4-inch winch cable or synthetic rope.
  • Sherrill Tree and Northern Tool offer the Portable Winch skidding cone, model PCA-1290. It handles up to 20-inch trees. The cone is made of high-performance polymer plastic.

Chris Pryor is the director of forest stewardship for the New England Forestry Foundation. A licensed forester for nine years, he was responsible for the monitoring of 135 easements covering over 1.142 million acres in seven states. Pryor now oversees the management of NEFF’s 24,000 acres of community forests. In a recent telephone interview, he discussed some of the practices, tools and equipment being used in forestry today.

After trees are felled and trimmed, they’re skidded to landings where they can be put on trucks and hauled to the mill. In some cases where it’s feasible, water transportation is still used. This “getting the wood out” part of the logging process employs a number of specialty tools and pieces of equipment. Although it’s possible to wrap the log with a chain, log tongs, such as the Timber Tuff models, can grip the log securely and help lift it when a winch is used. To skid a log, it helps to raise one end of the log, making it easier to drag it to its destination. Early skidding relied on teams of horses, mules or oxen. Today tractors, trucks and other equipment employing winches are used.

The major challenges when moving logs from the forest or woodlot revolve around issues like lifting the heavy weights involved on uneven terrain, overcoming the friction of the log and the earth. In addition, there is the necessity to protect any residual vegetation and the forester or lumberjack who is working the woodlot.

One recent addition to the toolbox at many skidding operations is the skidding cone. This plastic, cone-shaped device streamlines the log being skidded so it smoothly clears other trees, brush and stumps. In the process, it also minimizes soil disruption. An added bonus is that it makes lighter work for the winch or whatever pulling device is being used, thus cutting the need for repairs and downtime.

A skidding cone keeps logs from digging in while they are being towed or winched out of a woodlot.

Although they might look like “cheap plastic” in a catalog, the skidding cone is a great way to keep the front end of logs from digging in while they are being towed or winched out of a woodlot. The skidding cone also is a good way to remove trees that have fallen across a woods road without having to chain saw them into smaller pieces. Since much of the friction is gone, even a smaller vehicle like an all-terrain vehicle often is hefty enough to remove the log from blocking the road.

A snatch block is a pulley block with a side plate that swings open. Because the side plate opens, it’s no longer necessary to thread the winch cable through the opening; instead, by opening the side plate, fitting the cable over the pulley, then closing the side plate, the winching can begin.

Chains are often essential. Different grades of chain are available in colors that signal their strengths, with grade 70 being in common use.

Animal skidding still occurs in some small woodlots, but wheeled or tracked vehicles have largely replaced them, especially in larger, more commercial operations. Cable skidders are vehicles that pull logs behind them with steel ropes placed, or choked, around each log. A grapple skidder saves time by scooping up a bunch, or hitch, of logs by means of hydraulic arms mounted on its back. In muddy conditions, wheeled, truck-like vehicles called forwarders may carry logs to landings without dragging them.

Logging ranks as one of the most hazardous occupations, and many safety precautions are necessary to avoid injury. Vehicles used as skidders are equipped with rollover cages and seat belts to protect the operator in case the equipment turns over or a tree falls on it. Chain saws have safety features that allow quick shutoff in an emergency. Well-equipped loggers wear safety equipment, such as hard hats, ear protection, face screens and steel-toed boots. Clothing made from the same material used in bullet-proof vests protects them from chain-saw cuts.

It would be wrong to overlook some very simple – but essential – items for safety’s sake. Any forester will tell you that a good pair of gloves will guard against many accidents, protecting hands from splinters, flying wood chips, and including the metal wires from frayed steel cables. A hard hat will also eliminate a number of headaches – such as those from falling branches. Boots with steel or composite toes can also add comfort to a worker’s safety. And, don’t overlook safety glasses.

Log Splitter Manufacturer Directory

splittin-wood-image

We’ve listed the manufacturers, how to contact them and some salient features.

Maybe you can’t get to the Woodsmen’s Field Days in Boonville, New York, Aug. 19-21, to look at log splitters. And maybe you can’t talk with knowledgeable woodlot owners like Matt Mackey to get their input or log splitters, so here’s the rundown on several choices for your commercial woodlot needs.

We’ve listed the manufacturers, how to contact them and some salient features. (All manufacturers are searchable on Google.)

There are two types of log splitters available: hydraulic and kinetic. Prospective buyers should check features of both, since they offer different approaches to splitting logs, as well as different speeds and capabilities. Kinetic machines use energy stored in flywheels; hydraulic splitters use force (measured in tons) generated by pump-driven hydraulic cylinders.

In many cases, manufacturers offer videos of their machines in action – and they are also worth checking out.

Iron and Oak

20195 South Diamond Lake Road, Suite 100, Rogers, MN 55374; 800-817-1005; Faribault, MN; 800-822-0295; http://www.ironandoak.com

Model BVHVH3715GX has a 37-ton splitting force. The unit has a 270cc Honda engine, 6-inch reinforced I-beam construction, highway-rated tires, and a 25-inch log opening. The 20-ton model BHVH2015GX splits in both directions.

The Timber Wolf “firewood processor” is for larger operations.

Timber Wolf Manufacturing Corp.

126 Spruce Street, Rutland, VT 05701; 800-340-4386; http://www.timberwolfcorp.com

Model TW6 offers a four-way splitter wedge or optional six-way, hydraulic log lift, table grate, Honda GX630 engine and 13-inch wheels/tires for towing. The TW-6 log splitter is built for speed and power to ensure maximum commercial firewood production, the company says. This model is great for large, hard-to-split chunks. Optional log lift and table grate.

American Conveyors & Log

Honeoye, NY; 315-773-4460; http://www.americancls.com

AM-26W offers a four-way hydraulic cylinder, Honda 390 GX engine, 12-inch splitting wedge, oversized heavy-duty frame, 13-inch highway tires, optional electric start and/or hydraulic log-lift.

All Wood Log Splitters

P.O. Box 43, Petersburg, MI 49270; 743-369-7115; http://www.allwoodlogsplitters.com

The 2016 Bloodwood series offers a 38-ton splitting force with 24-hp Honda GX690, four- and six-way splitting wedges, hydraulic log-lift, a log table, and a 15-inch trailer wheels/tires on torsion axle.

Supersplitter

2 Bert Drive, Unit 7, West Bridgewater, MA 02379; 508-427-5800; http://www.supersplit.com

The HD model features twin 90-pound flywheels, two-and-a-quarter-inch wide rack gear, a pivoting pusher design with four bearings and has force ideal for tough woods, the company says. It can give follow-up shot using full momentum of flywheels to push logs through wedge.

Built-Rite

750 East Hill Road, Ludlow, VT 05149; 800-757-2520; http://www.built-rite.com

The unit tows from either end and has a 24-hp Honda (35hp Kubota diesel option), single-stage hydraulic pump, optional eight- or 10-way wedges, chip and bark separator grate and tool box.

Bells Machining Company

2044 Rogers Road, Perth, ON, Canada K7H1P9; 888-995-1965; http://www.bellsmachining.com

The 2000 Log Splitter has a 50-hp CAY diesel motor, 20-inch diameter cut, 14-foot max log length, four- or six-way splitter, standard 12-foot conveyor, operator station and single joystick control.

Northstar by Northern Tool

2800 Southcross Drive West, Burnsville, MN 55306; 800-221-0516; http://www.northerntool.com

The Model 11967 42-ton horizontal log splitter features hydraulic log lifter, 688 cc Honda motor, I-beam construction, adjustable four-way splitter wedge, large hydraulic fluid reservoir with fluid filter. It has a high-speed towing package with 15-inch wheels and trailer lights.

SAI

1602 Corporate Drive, Warrensburg, MO 64093; 800-222-8183; http://www.swisherinc.com

The Swisher Commercial Grade log splitter (model LSEK14534) is made in the U.S., comes standard with electric start and a14.5-hp commercial-grade Kawasaki V-Twin engine, the company says. This wood splitter offers 34 tons of splitting force, heavy-duty two-stage 22 GPM pump for maximum splitting performance and speed, functions in both horizontal and vertical splitting positions and includes the Swisher exclusive cold-weather clutch. Features include a 25-inch opening and 15-gallon hydraulic tank to keep fluids cool.

DR Power Equipment

75 Meigs Road, Vergennes, VT 05491; 800-687-6575; http://www.drpower.com

The RapidFire Flywheel Log Splitter K34 Pro-XL claims splitting power equivalent to a 34-ton hydraulic splitter and a cycle time of just three seconds, the company says. The model is for home or commercial use. Inertia created by twin 75-pound flywheels blasts apart dense hardwoods, like locust and hickory, and features DOT wheels with tapered roller bearings to tow unit on roads (at up to 45 mph), according to the company.

Agri-Fab, Inc.

809 South Hamilton Street, Sullivan, IL 61951; 800-448-9282; http://www.agri-fab.com

The Split Second Log Splitter uses kinetic technology with twin 90-pound fly wheels and a high-strength, heattreated steel rack and pinion gear to generate the splitting force, allowing splitting a cord of wood in one hour, the manufacturer claims. Four times faster than hydraulic splitters, according to the company, the kinetic log splitter brings features such as adjustable height to help operators avoid bending, the company says. An extra-large, 33-inch worktable helps operator manage partially split wood to minimize bending; two-handed activation control ensures operator safety.

What The Log Splitter Says

Matt Mackey owns and operates Treetop Firewood in Amish country. He bought his first log splitter (a Timberwolf TW-6) after digging into his retirement savings, then a year later added a conveyor and a self-loading trailer. After 10 years of selling firewood part time, he bought a firewood processor, which handles 26-foot logs, as well. He custom cuts firewood for people who have stoves or special requirements. He now cuts 200 cords a year, has a full-time employee and hires seasonal help, too. He cleans up behind loggers and land-clearing operations.

“It’s not going to be profitable from the get-go. It is not easy, and you have to work hard,” Mackey said.

The business may not be for everyone. “I enjoy the outdoors. If you don’t like working out in the elements, stay away from it,” Mackey added.

He noted that planning ahead is critical in the firewood business. “You’ve got to be working a year to two years ahead at all times. You have to figure out where you’re going to get the next supply of wood, and be ready to jump (at) a good deal when it comes up,” he said.

“There is a lot of responsibility, but there is also a lot of freedom,” he said. “We don’t have to run 365 days a year, so I can spend a little time with friends and family.”

Photo: Timberwolf

Portable Sawmills: A Farm Implement That Pays Its Way

portable sawmill in action

Portable sawmills are potential profit centers for modern family farms.

In days past, most family farms in the United States depended heavily on the woodlot as a source for fuel, lumber, food and shelter. While the importance of the farm-centered woodlot to the operation of many farms declined in the later decades of the 20th century, the invention of the modern, portable band sawmill some 30 years ago allowed the family farmer of today to reintroduce the woodlot as an important profit center for many farming operations.

In Pine City, New York, for example, Mark and Jim Watts were able to rebuild after a tragic fire nearly leveled their 150-year-old dairy barn. Using lumber from their land and a portable sawmill to save nearly $75,000 over the cost the brothers would have faced without the woodlot, the new barn along with a new and modern milking parlor rose from the ashes of the old structure. According to Mark, the project could never have become a reality without the sawmill and the trees growing on his own land and on the land of his neighbors who donated logs to the effort. The Watts’ experience highlights the importance a portable sawmill can have in acting as a profit center for farm owners looking to reduce costs, supplement other farm or job income or simply enhance the health of their farm forest.

The Watts farm is, like most family farms in the 21st century, a multifaceted enterprise. According to Mark, “We own 275 acres and work probably another 100 acres of our neighbor’s land. About 40 acres of our land is forested. We currently milk 20 cows and keep about 30 young animals. We also keep about 16 beef animals and sell between 4,000 and 5,000 square bales of hay per year to horse owners. We use our woodlot to source wood to mill lumber for personal use on the farm and to provide about 50 to 60 cords of wood we offer for sale each year.”

Mark said he and his brother also mill lumber and cut firewood on lands owned by friends and neighbors in the area.

Beyond their farm work, like many family farmers today, Mark and Jim have full-time jobs off the farm; Mark works for the local soil and water conservation district and Jim for the local town highway department.

Private landowners manage national resource

Woodlots like those owned by the Watts brothers represent a huge potential resource for farm families throughout the Northeast. Those woodlots are also a national resource of great importance; they provide safe and clean filters for much of the nation’s water supply, trap climate-related gasses in their fiber, offer habitat for birds and animals and are used to provide wood, recreation, and homes by the people who own them.

Portable sawmills represent one of the most viable ways to realize the value of that resource. Lumber for on-farm use replaces the need to purchase lumber with almost no cost involved; lumber can be sold and sawmilling services can be profitably offered to neighbors and friends. Portable mills are also widely used to provide for the health of the forests and woodlots managed by private landowners; a wind-damaged tree milled up into lumber not only sequesters (traps) a good deal of carbon in that lumber, it replaces the need to mill a healthy tree from a forest elsewhere.

Portable sawmills can also provide social and economic enhancements at the individual community level. Crystal V. Lupo of Rutgers University has done groundbreaking work in recent years researching the place portable sawmill-based “microenterprises” can have in enhancing both the lives and communities of individuals offering milling services.

“Microenterprises can add valuable resources to the larger society, in filling important markets often outside the scope of mainstream industry and by enhancing a society’s well-being through reduction of poverty, creating opportunities available to people who are marginalized by the labor force for one reason or another,” she wrote in “The Case of Portable Sawmill-Based Microenterprises.” “Forest microenterprises, in particular, can be beneficial to enhancing community development efforts as well as forest conservation goals, empowering local people to enhance their own income as well as manage their resources.”

Privately owned acres require management

According to the USDA Forest Service, more than half of the nation’s forests are in private hands. Over 10 million family forest owners own more than 264 million of those forest lands with most of that ownership and acreage located east of the Mississippi. More than 100 million acres of that forest land is associated with farms and ranches; about 2.4 million family forest owners like the Watts brothers farm that land.

Even more families own woodlands not associated with farms but, according to the Forest Service, studies show those families also desire to manage their lands for various uses including recreational homes, wildlife habitat and a connection with the land. Each land holder represents a potential customer for the farm owner with a sawmill.

As summed up by Lupo, “Portable sawmills can be part of small-scale timber harvesting activities that make a positive environmental contribution while optimizing resource utilization, maximizing options and increasing revenue streams for portable sawmill owners and landowners.”

Portable sawmill – a farm implement that pays its way

The Watts brothers have owned and operated The Watts Family Farm since 2002 when they took over operation of the farm upon the passing of their father. The farm had been in the family since 1960 so the boys had a strong attachment to the place, having grown up on the dairy.

According to Mark, he’d been sawmilling for years when disaster struck the farm in the form of a 2012 fire that turned the old dairy barn into a pile of smoldering ash. “I owned a Wood-Mizer LT-15 and just liked to see a log be able to be turned into lumber,” he said. “We used it mainly for personal use; we really did not use the machine for income.”

What followed would form the basis for an old Jimmy Stewart movie about the fabled New England community penchant for pitching in to help others in troubling times. Almost immediately, Mark said, “We had dozens of folks show up to help clean up after the fire. Actually the entire site was cleaned up in two days.”

The decision to rebuild the family farmstead was made almost as quickly as was the decision to purchase a larger sawmill fitted out with the hydraulics necessary to a production operation, a mill with adequate capacity to produce the lumber needed to rebuild the barn in a timely manner.

“We went with Wood-Mizer’s LT 35 Hydraulic sawmill and got to work,” Mark said. “We then spent the next few months cutting and milling trees. We had friends help to cut and drag trees to the mill and then nights and weekends we would mill the lumber. We also had many friends and neighbors offer us the use of their woodlots to get additional trees. We also have a friend in the tree cutting business who, when they had good trees, would give them to us. I would estimate there were hundreds of hours where people came in to help provide meals and one farmer provided the room for our milk cows.”

An Amish family was hired to do most of the construction. With the brothers and other volunteer helpers working along side them, a new barn as well as a modern milking parlor rose from the ashes in just nine months. “We were able to milk cows again on the farm our parents started in 1960,” Mark and Jim said. “The feeling of that is something that just cannot be put into words. We have been back milking now for three years and we still get choked up when we think of everything that happened in 2012.”

The Watts brothers continue to operate the sawmill today. Due mostly to time constraints, Mark said, he and his brother generally don’t mill for others as a business. “But we do see the opportunities,” he said. “Just sawmilling for our own use and the use of friends and neighbors we have all we can do to keep up.”

“However,” Mark said, “I can see great potential in using a sawmill to generate additional income and have been asked on several occasions to saw for payment.”

On the farm, Mark said his portable sawmill is an invaluable piece of equipment. “This past year,” he said, “we milled out enough lumber for my cousin to build a 30-foot by 30-foot horse barn and we constructed a 36-foot by 80-foot pole barn ourselves; we sawed the poles, headers, roof and side boards for the project. The only cost was for the trusses and metal siding and roofing. My cousin saved thousands as we cut everything except the poles and metal for the roof.”

The Watts mill is also in the process of possibly becoming the basis for an on-farm cottage industry, according to Mark. “My wife is in the beginning stages of woodworking and making crafts from lumber sawn from our Wood-Mizer. We’re currently looking into what it would cost to construct a solar kiln. We also have a friend who builds cabinets and full kitchens who is interested in a possible partnership and we have seen interest in folks who would like to take wood from their own property, have it milled, kiln dried and then turned into stairs, cabinets or other wood furniture.”

As valuable as the portable sawmill has been as a farm tool, Mark still contends the gratification of being able to harvest a tree saw into lumber and see the hard work suddenly becomes a reality, as it did with the new Watts dairy barn, is the real benefit he and his brother realize from portable sawmilling.