Monday, February 26, 2018

Timber Harvesting Cautions

By Allyson Muth, Penn State Center for Private Forests

The recent warm, wet weather is making for poor logging conditions; however, it appears that timber buyers are busy looking for standing timber. Based on the calls we’ve been getting from landowners wanting to know the dollar value of their trees, owners are looking at trees in a different way than usual. Unsolicited knocks on the door from someone offering to buy a landowner’s trees always raises red flags. Yes, it may be an efficiency of scale – people are working in the area and wouldn’t have to move equipment far – but it also means you have something of economic value. Moreover, if you’ve never thought of your trees with dollar symbols in your eyes, it can be a surprise. You must use care that any activities you undertake don’t compromise the reasons you own and care for your land.

Jim Stiehler, now passed but formerly with the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, used to say, “A timber harvest represents the best time to make a positive change on your woodland; but it’s also the time when the most damage can be done.” As with many things forestry, there are many myths associated with timber harvesting that can lead to bad outcomes. Let’s address some in hopes of getting to a more positive outcome.

Those trees need to be cut. Unless they present a risk to life or property, or an insect or disease is in the area, no tree ever needs to be cut immediately. Sure, trees have economic and biological maturity, but in a resource with a lifespan many decades beyond our own, the time frame for decision-making is correspondingly longer. You have time to make decisions that do well by your land.

Get those big trees out of the way so those little trees can grow get bigger. Unless you’ve taken action to get the next generation of young trees growing in the forest, for the most part across Pennsylvania, those big trees and little trees are the same age. They are likely different species even, which would account for different growth rates (for example oaks and maples), or they may be the winners within a species due to micro-site or genetic superiority. By the same rules that a farmer keeps his prize bull around for breeding, why would you want to cut the best growing trees without ensuring that their progeny are there to replace them? And, as with most of Pennsylvania’s trees of an average age between 80 and 120 years old, we know at that age many trees lose their ability to respond well to increased light. They aren’t going to grow quickly and recapture a site – instead the light can cause stress and you’ll lose more trees in the process.

We are just going to do a “select cut.” As with the knock on the door, anytime the phrase “select cut” enters the conversation, red flags and warning lights should go off. The first question you should ask is what are your going to “select” or better yet, what are you going to leave me? In the manner in which it has come to be used, a “select cut” typically means the best trees are removed and the worst are left – take the best and leave the rest. Diameter limit cuts fall in the same red flag area – cutting all trees above a certain diameter. Within a species, this could remove the best growing trees of that group. Across species, because different tree species have different growth rates, this could remove an entire species from your forest. We hear about this happening a lot in oak and cherry stands. With our forest’s past history and these species growth rates, oaks and cherries are often the largest trees. And if you love wildlife or hunting, it makes little sense to remove one of the largest food sources for insects (feed the birds) and wildlife. The maples and birch left aren’t going to fill that void.

Forestry’s not complicated. I can do this on my own. It’s been said that forestry is not rocket science; it’s a lot harder (I will admit, some forester probably said this). The reality is that a forest is a complex system. There are professional service providers who can help, called consulting foresters. If ever a timber harvest is considered, we strongly encourage landowners to have someone to advocate for you, your values, and your long-term goals for the woodland. Consulting foresters can prescribe management activities that will best mesh with your woods and what you value. They can mark timber for sale to help carry out that activity. They can bid out the sale. And they can monitor the harvest to ensure good work is done. Yes, trees can bring dollars to your pockets, but they also bring you (and the rest of us) so much more. Having a professional who can interpret the story of your forest, help you understand what you have on your land, and help guide you in the process to move the forest to a place you hope it can go is an asset to you. As with other professionals, there are costs involved. But more often than not, these professionals ensure a more positive outcome. As with all professions, there are scrupulous and unscrupulous players in forestry. Get recommendations; ask for references.

There is always time to make well-informed decisions about the long-term care of your woods. Purchase of standing timber may be picking up right now, but make sure you understand the actions and potential outcomes before you make the decision to sell trees. Ask for help. Educate yourself. The trees and forest will be better for it.

A great resource to get you started is a Penn State publication titled, “Forestry with Confidence.” You can find it online and review or download a copy. Another great resource from the University of Wisconsin is called "Conducting a Successful Timber Sale." I would suggest reviewing both of thse resources in addition to contacting your DCNR, Bureau of Forestry, State Service Forester before proceeding with any timber sale.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Recommended Forestry Best Management Practices Related to Spotted Lanternfly

The forest products industry in Pennsylvania is committed to doing everything possible to minimize the threat and reduce the risk of spreading Spotted Lanternfly (SLF). To that end, all members of the forest products industry in Pennsylvania are strongly encouraged to voluntarily comply with the following best management practices (BMPs), within and outside the quarantine areas. Note: These BMP recommendations will no doubt be modified and adapted as more information is learned and conditions change.

It is important to have all employees trained to identify Spotted Lanternfly (egg masses, nymphs and adults), remove egg masses, and in processes to minimize the movement of living insects during the summer and fall. Employees should be trained to watch for signs at the company but also their homes and other job sites.

Companies may contact Penn State Extension, the PA Hardwoods Development Council, Regional Hardwood Utilization Groups, DCNR Bureau of Forestry, County Conservation Districts, and the PA Department of Agriculture to request available staff to assist in training employees in the forest products industry.

BMPs for Forest Landowners
·         Monitor information about SLF in your county and neighboring counties, especially if your property is in the quarantine area.
·         Learn to identify SLF and egg masses and watch for potential egg masses on smooth bark trees, rusty metal, outdoor furniture and covers, recreational vehicles, lawn tractor and mowers, mower decks, grills and covers, tarps, mobile homes, tile, stone, siding, pool liners and covers, play equipment, deck boards, or anything stored outside, etc. If found, remove all egg masses if possible.
·         If you are in a quarantine county, do not move firewood off your property unless you check each piece of firewood for egg masses. Do not move firewood (or anything) from properties with active high populations. The risk of moving adults is too great.
·         Remove female Ailanthus trees from property using herbicide treatments. See control recommendations in this fact sheet. They are easy to identify in the late summer when the seed clusters can be easily seen clinging to the female trees. These trees are generally located along the tree line of forested areas or highway right of ways where the soil has been disturbed.
·         Monitor male Ailanthus trees for early signs of SLF. Treatment information for herbicide and insecticide applications may also be found here.
·         You may want to band Ailanthus trees or other high risk trees (Maple, Walnut, Apple) with adhesive tree bands – May to August. This will also help in identifying if SLF is present, and can kill all walking life stages in infested areas.
·         Park in areas away from the tree line if possible and always leave windows up. Kill any SLF that you find in your car before leaving the area.

BMPs for Foresters
·         Monitor information about SLF in your work areas, especially if your clients are in the quarantine zone.
·         Learn to identify all SLF life stages including egg masses and watch for them when doing initial surveys of properties.
·         If Ailanthus is on the property, monitor current conditions and note if SLF is present. Recommend herbicide treatments of all female Ailanthus trees.
·         If SLF or egg masses are identified, and the county is not currently quarantined, consider yourself a mandatory reporter to the PA Department of Agriculture.
·         Inform property owners of the presence of SLF and suggest options to minimize the spread of SLF, as well as treatment methods to eradicate SLF on the property. Refer to the Spotted Lanternfly IPM Management Calendar for treatment protocols.
·         Always be prepared by carrying egg mass scrapers (the size of a credit card) and train all staff to identify and destroy egg masses during the months of October – April.
·         Be vigilant for signs of SLF on Ailanthus, Walnut, Maple, and Apple trees. Egg masses are also likely to be on young Black Birch and young Black Cherry. Asian Longhorned Beetle will also most likely be on Maple, Poplar, Ash among others.
·         Monitor forest for signs of SLF in or near orchards, vineyards, or near fields where hops are grown.
·         If SLF is found, then recommend harvesting during December to March when egg masses can be clearly identified and removed from every log. All sides of the log must be examined and may not move out of the quarantine zone without proper certification from PA Department of Agriculture.
·         Park in areas away from the tree line if possible and always leave windows up. Kill any SLF that you find in your vehicle before leaving the area.

BMPs for Loggers
·         Before bidding on properties survey for signs of SLF. If found, determine what level engagement you will support to be sure that you do not move SLF.
·         Compliance agreements are required for all forest product companies working in a quarantine zone.
·         You must notify the Department of Agriculture Regional Bureau of Plant Industry Supervisor four weeks in advance regarding any harvest in the quarantine zone.
·         Compliance forms must be signed by your company and all actions must be followed in the compliance agreements. Make sure the paperwork has the proper stamp and is present on site and with those transporting the logs.
·         If the forest land has high populations of SLF do not harvest during July – November when SLF adults are active.
·         If egg masses are found on the property, every log must be inspected prior to moving the log off the property. Every log should also be inspected on all four sides at the receiving log yard as a secondary defense. If found, the egg masses must be manually destroyed. Do not assume the log de-barkers will kill all egg masses. If egg masses are moved to sawmills, the potential that the sawmill will become infested in subsequent summers is high and could significantly impact the sawmill economically.
·         Follow BMPs for foresters in addition to BMPs for Loggers.
·         Offer to remove or cut all female Ailanthus trees on the property only after they have been treated with a herbicide for a minimum of 30 days.
·         During the months of July-December, equipment and vehicles must be monitored for adults which might fall into crevices and move out of the area. Look before you leave. This is imperative action before moving to a new site. 
·         Windows of vehicles should remain closed while parked in the quarantine zones.