Starting OutEither you have inherited a piece of land or have just bought your first woodlot. The management possibilities are varied and your choices will depend widely on your values. To effectively manage your woodlot you initially have to define your objectives.
Why did you buy a woodlot? Why do you want to manage it? What do you want to manage it for? These are all question that you should start by asking yourself.
Your objectives will most likely be divided in two broad categories, income and satisfaction. Income would encompass all activities that generate capital such as sale of wood, tourism, or sale of non-timber forest products. All activities or values that generate a sense of satisfaction would be placed in the second category. These activities and values could range from recreational uses to the plain sense of satisfaction acquired from owning a piece of land.
In many cases objectives from both these categories intertwine impacting each other. For example, if you are an avid bird watcher and wish to protect the songbird population present on your woodlot you would use low impact methods of harvesting trees.
More importantly, since the late 20th century, the growing environmental consciousness has had a direct impact on the market encouraging woodlot owners to adopt multi-resource management. For example, in New Brunswick, all Crown (public) land forestry operations have to be certified to ensure that they take into consideration sustainability and environmental impact.
Regardless of your objectives it will be very important that you get to know your property. You can walk your land or use maps and aerial photographs to familiarize yourself with what is found on your woodlot. When walking your woodlot you should identify types of trees and shrubs, as well as note presence of wildlife or endangered species. These factors will have an impact on the management of your woodlot.
Also it is necessary for you to walk your boundary lines. Clear, maintained lines will help avoid property disputes with neighbours and in the case of wood theft, will help you estimate the value of wood stolen. If your lines are no longer visible, you will need to hire a registered surveyor to legally establish the woodlots boundaries.
Once your objectives have been established and you've had a chance to familiarize yourself with your woodlot, you will need to decide what kind of roads will be needed and the layout of these. The types of road and layout will vary depending on whether you will be using them for recreation, wood extraction, silvicultural work or fire control. Also, when constructing roads you must take into consideration environmental impacts and costs.
The first step in building a woodlot road will be to properly lay it out. Your woodlot roads should ideally provide you with access to most stands on the woodlot. Proper access will help you better organize and minimize the cost of harvesting and silvicultural activities. Initially this involves locating a potential route on aerial photographs and then marking this location on the ground.
As with any operations taking place on your woodlot, environmental considerations need to be taken into account. If your woodlot has a stream or other watercourse, you should never locate your road so that it runs immediately adjacent and parallel to it. Building a road alongside a watercourse encourages silt and other debris to wash into the watercourse, destroying habitat for fish and other wildlife. Leaving a buffer strip of undisturbed vegetation, 30 meters (100 feet) wide, next to each side of the stream serves to keep the water cool and well oxygenated in addition to intercepting silt and other pollutants. Also, you should avoid stream crossings if possible. Where streams must be crossed, do so at a narrow straight stretch with a rocky or gravel bottom.
If your woodlot road has entry onto public roads you have to submit an "Application for Access" to the Department of Transportation.
Once the location of the road has been established and marked on the ground, it is time to begin the construction process.
The first step in building your woodlot road is to clear the right-of-way where it will be located. This task can be broken down into two stages
a) tree removal
b) grubbing: removal of stumps, limbs and roots of trees
Generally, the woodlot road right-of-way width is 10 to 15 m (30-50 feet) with increased widths in areas that cross side hills and wetter areas.
Once the right-of-way has been cleared, you're ready for the next step. Structurally, roads consist of two main parts- the roadbed and the surfacing.
The roadbed serves as the foundation layer of the road and consists of soil taken from on, or near, the right-of-way.
Surfacing is any material, gravel for example, which is placed on top of the roadbed. The road surface is broken down into the roadway, which is the part of the road that carries traffic, and the shoulders.
Along your road, you will have to build ditches and diversion ditches to ensure proper drainage. It should be noted that diversion ditches should never be placed in a designated riparian buffer zone.
In locations where water must be drained under a road, you will need to install a culvert. When installing culverts to allow a stream to pass under the road, you must follow strict environmental guidelines. You must also obtain a water alteration permit before installation.
It is of utmost importance that any time you work near water to respect the Clean Water Act. This Act's main focus is the prevention of water quality problems. Environmental guidelines are necessary because how we treat our forests, including woodlots, has a large bearing on the availability and quality of the water resource.
As a woodlot owner, you have a special opportunity to protect the province's water resource by the way you manage your woodlot.
* Avoid poor forestry practices that create siltation in streams
* Correctly cross streams
* Avoid obstructing streams with debris
* Properly install culverts
* Avoid clearcutting near streams
* Refrain from dumping chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers near streams
* Respect fish spawning habitat
Once you have insured access to the various stands located on your woodlot, you can consider applying silviculture treatments. All your forest stands can be divided into two basic groups:
1) Even-aged stands: more than 80% of the trees are about the same age
2) Uneven-aged stands: has three or more tree age groups
Even-aged stands are produced in nature by stand replacing disturbances, such as fire. Following a stand-replacing disturbance, a stand will go through various stages of development.
On the other hand, uneven-aged stands are produced by frequent within-stand disturbances that kill enough trees to create new space for regeneration to start, but not replace the stand.
Sylviculture treatments should mimic nature but at a faster pace than in nature. There are three major stages of silviculture:
1) Stand establishment: time when space is made for new trees; regeneration may be natural, or it may be artificial (planting or seeding)
2) Stand tending: done when competing groups of trees are immature and are not old enough for final harvest; main purpose of tending is to improve the stand (ex: thinning and pruning)
3) Final harvest: when the trees have grown enough to maximize their value they are ready for final harvest. The age at which a particular tree is considered ready will depend on the tree species, productivity of soil, stand tending, and your goals.
When harvesting, the most important decision you will have to make is whether to cut or not. This will depend mostly on your values. To help you decide when and what to harvest, you should seriously consider drawing up a management plan. Also, before you start any harvesting operation, make sure too contact your local marketing board or wood co-op to get all of the details as to what products you should be producing to effectively market your wood.
You must never forget that logging is a highly skilled and potentially highly dangerous profession. The skills needed to do accurate, productive, and safe logging, should be taken very seriously. If you choose to do your own logging it is recommended that you take some basic practical logging training beforehand.
For many landowners, doing the work themselves is not an option. If this is your case, you will need to find a logging contractor to do the work. Here are a few tips you should follow when hiring a contractor:
a) Have a good plan: you need to know what kind of work you want done
b) Have clear expectations of visual changes in woodlot and monetary gains
c) Look at the logger's job history
d) Talk to references
e) Get reasonable stumpage estimates
f) Consider hiring a consulting forestry professional
g) Write up a contract