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