Stump the 
 Forester
Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is forest management?
What is the history of our forests in southern New England?
What are the benefits of forest management ?

What are the risks or liabilities of forest management?
What if I want to improve habitats for specific wildlife species?
 

Are there insects or diseases that I should be concerned about?
Is acid precipitation a problem?
What about tropospheric ozone?
How about increased ultraviolet radiation?
How about climate change and the projected increasing frequency and severity of storms , temperature      fluctuations, droughts, and floods?
 

Are any forestry services are available from the state?
What are the advantages of Chapter 61 classification?
How much will forest management cost?
Why pay a forester a significant percentage of the gross value on a timber sale when a logger won't charge anything?
 

Is it better not to cut trees since there is so much deforestation in the world?
Won't logging cause soil erosion and siltation of streams and rivers?
Why not just let the forest manage itself?
How is my property going to look after a logging job, and what can I do to minimize the impacts?
 

How much is the timber on my land worth?
How much is my land worth without the timber?
Can I count on my forestland for retirement income or other future expenses such as college educations?
 
Should I hold onto my land or should I just sell it and put the money in stocks or bonds?
What can I do preserve the forest and to prevent development after I have sold the land or given it to my    heirs?
 

Should I plant trees in open areas or in cutover areas?
Do I need to replant after harvesting?
What forest products are our woodlands capable of producing?
How about the less tangible, non-monetary values of our forests?

What is forest management?

The first step in management is the clarification and definition of goals of ownership (QUESTIONNAIRE).  The second part is the writing of a management plan based on those goals (PLAN OULINE).  The third part is implementing the plan.  For most landowners this process of goal-setting, planning, and implementation is influenced by a complex mix of financial needs and tax considerations, plus environmental and aesthetic values. 

Decisions can be based on economic considerations, i.e., which trees will be the best long-term investments and which trees are worth cutting now (NJAF PAPER).  Or wildlife habitat considerations may require consideration of which trees provide food and cover for wildlife (MOLLY'S DATABASE).  Aesthetic considerations may ask which trees are the most interesting to look at (HILARY'S PAPER).

What is the history of our forests in southern New England? 

Our forests have been managed for a long time.  The Indians had their methods (AGFO PAPER), as did the early Anglo-European settlers.  Since large scale farm abandonment began in the late 1800's, the forest has been coming back into old fields and pastures (HISTORY SECTION).  Most cutting of these second-growth forests has been either clearcutting or high-grading.  Over the past several decades there has been more management due to more landowners being under Chapter 61 and having their land managed by consulting foresters.  Nevertheless, only about 15% of the state's land is currently under management.

Forest management has become increasingly sophisticated, with more consideration being given to aesthetics, wildlife habitats and recreational uses.  Economic analysis has also become more sophisticated (YMS REPORT).

What are the benefits of forest management ?

The benefits depend entirely on the goals of forest management.  Economic benefits may include increased rates of growth and value, plus lower current taxes (BENEFITS MEMO, SPREADSHEET).  Wildlife benefits may include more sources of food and cover for particular species (DATABASE).  Aesthetic and recreational benefits may include scenic vistas, highlighting of individual trees or stands, new trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, or horseback riding, and park-like areas (HILARY PAPER).

What are the risks or liabilities of forest management?

Poorly planned and supervised cutting operations can significantly damage the residual stands and forest soils so that their ability to produce quality timber is adversely affected.  Some older, unmanaged stands are at risk of wind-throw after thinning or harvesting operations.  Careful planning can minimize these risks, but not eliminate them.

Cutting operations, particularly poorly executed ones, can lower the sale value of the property.  Careful planning and supervision of the cutting operation can minimize this risk.   

How is my property going to look after a logging job, and what can I do to control the negative impacts?

Most commercial logging operations look a little rough during and immediately after the job.  It's a bit like getting a haircut: it takes a while for things to grow back and even out.  There will be slash (tree branches and tops) on the forest floor.  There will be scarification of forest soils along skid roads and at log landings.  But slash rots quickly, particularly if it's lopped to lie close to the ground, and scarified soils can be seeded to grass (CYNTHIA PAPER).

Timber sale contracts can be written to minimize the adverse aesthetic impacts.  Clauses can require skidding only with frozen or dry ground to minimize soil disturbance.  Tops can be removed or lopped to lie within 2-3 feet of the ground (CONTRACT). 

What if I want to improve habitats for specific species?

If you know which species you want to encourage, your forester will tell you what types of forest cover these species require for different phases of their life cycles (MOLLY DATABASE).  Deer need mast-producing trees (oaks, beech) for the food in the fall and softwood stands (that intercept the snow) for protection in winter.  Turkeys and bears need mast trees too.  Bears also like raspberries and blueberries.  Many tropical migrant birds like thick sapling stands for building their nests and for insects to eat during the summer.   

What can I do to preserve the forest and prevent development after I have sold the land or given it to my heirs?

Some landowners sell or give their land to conservation organizations.  More landowners give the development rights to land conservation trusts.  This way they keep ownership of the land, but the development rights belong to an organization that will not develop the land.  The land trust will make sure that any future owners don't develop it either.

The owners get tax deductions for the value of the development rights that they give away.  It's possible to give away the development rights for all or part of the land.  Most land trusts will help with planning for limited development of some of the land if they acquire the development rights for the rest of the land.

In many cases, limited development with gifts of development rights will have An after-tax value equal to or greater than full development (CR SPREADSHEET).     

Are there insects or diseases that I should be concerned about? 

Hemlock adelgid is advancing into this region from the south (CT EXT LINK), and hemlock looper is advancing from the north.  Both of these insects defoliate hemlock trees and increase the risk of mortality.  Oaks are always at risk to another gypsy moth outbreak.  Ash is currently suffering a complex decline syndrome that is caused by a combination of factors (HILARY PAPER).  

Is acid precipitation a problem? 

Sulphur dioxide from power plants and factories forms a dilute form of sulfuric acid when it mixes with water vapor in the atmosphere.  Trees are dying at higher elevations throughout the Appalachians from acid rain, snow and fog.  Researchers attribute this problem mainly to the leaching of essential minerals from forest soils, plus acidic clouds that often shroud mountain areas.   Since mountain soils tend to be shallow and more acidic to begin with, they are more at risk (APP VOICES LINK). 

For two decades now, Forest Service and university researchers have said that forests at lower elevations are not at risk because soils are deeper and have greater buffering capacity.  This theory has been challenged in recent years by some researchers who have found evidence to the contrary.  Lower elevation forests throughout Europe, Scandinavia and the Balkans now have serious decline problems where there were none just a few years ago.

The 3 trillion dollar per year fossil fuel industry has an enormous interest in minimizing the public perception of damage to forests from air pollution.  This industry has a powerful influence on our elected and appointed public officials, including those who are responsible for funding forest research.  They also have enormous influence over the news media (GELBSPAN LINK).

What about tropospheric ozone? 

This problem is a result of the interaction of sunlight with nitrous oxides from car exhaust in the atmospheric layers close to Earth's surface.  Most tree and plant species are unaffected, although some `sentinel species` such as tobacco, milkweed and black cherry are now showing increasing signs of ozone damage in our area (LINK). 

How about increased ultraviolet radiation?

Thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer due is due to chlorine and bromine compound pollution.  Less ozone in the stratosphere results in more ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth's surface.  The increased ultraviolet at the South Pole, Australia and New Zealand is known to be dangerous to all forms of life in these areas.  Increased ultraviolet has also been found in northern, temperate areas such as Great Britain, Scandinavia, northern Siberia and Canada.  Correlation of increased ultraviolet with plant decline symptoms is a new research area that has yet to produce significant results (LOUCKS LINK).  

How about climate change and the projected increasing frequency and severity of storms , temperature fluctuations, droughts, and floods?

Most climatologists now say that global warming--due to the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels--will be manifested primarily by climate extremes, that is, extremes of heat, cold, wet and dry.  These extremes will likely have adverse effects of forest health (PRECAUTIONARY PAPER). 

Prolonged drought stress weakens trees and makes them more susceptible to insect infestation and disease.  Hurricanes and tornadoes break and uproot trees, as do wet snowstorms.  Rapid temperature changes in winter can create embolisms in trees' vascular tissues.  Embolisms can kill trees.      

By funding a few, very vocal scientists who advocate their point of view, the fossil fuel industry has created the public perception that there still is a debate about global warming and climate change, when in fact only their hirelings disagree with the scientific consensus that climate change is real and poses a real threat (WESTERN FUELS LINK).

Are any forestry services are available from the state?

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management funds Bureau of Forestry county service foresters who are responsible for providing limited information on forest management and referrals to consulting foresters for more information.  They also are responsible for approval of cutting plans and Chapter 61 management plans (DEM-BOF LINK). 

The University of Massachusetts funds an Extension Service forester who is responsible for organizing workshops and seminars about all aspects of forestry, as well as publishing booklets and fliers on forestry (DBK WEB SITE) 

The US Forest Service, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, funds the Stewardship Incentives Program which provides services similar to those of the state extension forester, as well as subsidies for forest management plans and various forest management activities.   

What are the advantages of Chapter 61 classification?

This law was created decades ago to encourage the management of Massachusetts' forests.  It provides landowners a 95% reduction in the assessed value of approved forestland.  But when they sell timber or other forest products, they must pay 8% of the stumpage value to the town where the land is located (BENEFITS SPREADSHEET).  To receive approval under Chapter 61, landowners must commit to follow a 10 year management plan.

The 8% stumpage tax works out to be less that the full assessed value (Chapter 59) tax except for land with very high value timber in towns with low assessed values. 

How much will forest management cost? 

Timber sale expenses are normally deducted from the returns of timber sales.  The US Forest Service and state forestry agencies subsidizes the cost of some forest management plans, plus some management practices such as tree planting, timber stand improvement and old field restoration--for wildlife habitats (COST SHARE RATES). 

Over the long term, costs will be in the range of 10-20% of returns (PRICE LISTS).  However, over the short term the percentage is often higher, particularly for properties that need a lot of thinning and weeding to reverse the effects of no management or poor management in the past.   

Is it better not to cut trees since there is so much deforestation in the world? 

In Massachusetts and elsewhere in southern New England, growth rates exceed removals (harvests) by a ratio of 3:1.  We're in one of the very few areas in the world where this is the case.  Wildlife biologists complain that there isn't enough cutting in southern New England to maintain the diversity of forest habitats needed by many wildlife species (BIODIVERSITY). 

Fast-growing trees store carbon in their stems.  Use of wood as building materials and furniture places carbon in long-term storage.  Substitution of biomass fuels for fossil fuels reduces the amount of carbon that leaves the `fossil fuel reservoirs` and goes into the atmosphere (CARBON CONSERVATION).

Won't logging cause soil erosion and siltation of streams and rivers? 

Many studies have shown that tree cutting by itself does not cause soil erosion because the soil is protected by a thick layer of leaf duff and organic material that absorbs and slows the movement of water.  But if this layer is removed by logging equipment, as it frequently is on skid roads and truck roads, there can be erosion problems (WATER QUALITY PAPER). 

Best management practices (BMP's) such as careful planning of skid and truck roads, placement of temporary bridges or culverts at stream crossings, installation of water diversions in skid roads, and reseeding to grass after the job can minimize or eliminate the risk of soil erosion. BMP's are required by the Massachusetts Cutting Practices Act. 

Why pay a forester a significant percentage of the gross value on a timber sale when a logger won't charge anything?

Loggers and lumber companies have an inherent conflict of interest when it comes to reporting the volume and value of what they have cut.  That some of them have difficulty in resolving this conflict is a large part of why consulting foresters are in business in the first place.  Loggers are not trained in the principles of silviculture.  Some may have some knowledge of silviculture, but not to the extent of a well-trained and experienced forester.

Consulting foresters will mark and tally trees to be cut, will put them out to bid to competent operators, will write a sale contract and oversee the cutting operation, including holding a performance deposit to insure adherence to the terms of the contract (SERVICES).  The consulting forester works for you as your agent and advisor.

Why not just let the forest manage itself? 

There are significant tax advantages to classifying land under Chapter 61.  Following a management plan will improve the rate of growth and net present value of the trees.  Improvement of recreational opportunities, wildlife habitats and aesthetic values are other potential benefits of managing a forest.  There has always been human manipulation of the environment for food and timber production.  Most of this manipulation has negatively impacted the long term productivity of the forest.  It's time to reverse this process

But if money is not a consideration, there is significant ecological value in old-growth forests.  If left unmanaged, all forests will eventually reach this condition.  Landowners who wish to let their trees get old usually put theses areas under conservation restrictions so that subsequent owners will have to honor this wish.

How much is the timber on my land worth? 

A complete forest inventory and appraisal will provide data by species, tree grade and diameter class, as well as total volumes and values.  Computer simulations of cutting operations will estimate volume and value removals under different scenarios.  Simulations of growth of the residual stands will give internal rates of return and net present worth (YMS REPORT).

Most landowners know exactly how much money they have in their bank accounts and stock portfolios.  They also know how fast their accounts are growing.  But very few of these same people have any idea how much their trees are worth and how fast they are growing in value (WIZARD).

How much is my land worth without the timber? 

Real estate appraisers can answer this question by analyzing sales of comparable tracts of land in your area.  But since realtors are not foresters, there won't be much difference in their appraised values of tracts with and without timber.  You can assume that comparable sales values--and town assessor values--will approximate the value of land without much timber.

Can I count on my forestland for retirement income or other future expenses such as college educations? 

The answer here will depend on the species, age classes and rates of growth of the trees on your land.  A complete inventory, appraisal, plus treatment and growth simulations will provide this information (YMS REPORT). 

Should I hold onto my land or should I just sell it and put the money in stocks or bonds? 

Complete inventory and appraisal will also answer this question.  Most well-managed stands grow at an annual rate of 10-15% compound, without inflation (WIZARD).  But the returns from sales of timber are often well into the future.  If you don't want to wait for the trees to grow to maturity, you may want to sell it to someone who does.  Complete inventory and appraisal can help sell the land.

Should I plant trees in open areas or in cutover areas?

Some landowners with old fields or pastures plant them to Christmas trees.  Christmas trees will be ready to harvest in 5-10 years with good management and offer a fairly good rate of return on investment.  Other landowners plant high grade hardwood trees such as black walnut, red oak, white ash and black cherry.  These trees usually aren't mature for 60-80 years, and offer a low rate of return on investment.  Some landowners are planting nut trees for food production and short log (boltwood) production.  These trees will bear nut crops in 5-10 years, and a small log for woodworking in 40-60 years. (TCBUD SPREADSHEET)

Do I need to replant after harvesting? 

Our forests in the Northeast are extremely resilient.  They have survived fires, agricultural clearing and heavy cutting.  Different species have different regeneration strategies (ECOLOGY SECTION).  Some resprout from stumps or roots, others from seed stored in the leaf duff, others from light-weight seeds that travel far on the wind.  Part of the planning process in forest management is to decide which species are to be encouraged and to plan the cutting so that seed from these species will have a good chance to germinate and grow. 

If regeneration strategies succeed, there is no need to replant--unless you want something to grow that does not have a natural seed source in your forest.  In this case, trees can be planted.  But measures need to be taken to assure that the planted trees are not killed off by browsing wildlife or by competition from other vegetation.   

What forest products are our woodlands capable of producing?

Western Massachusetts grows some of the best quality hardwoods in the entire world (PRODUCTS SECTION).  Our red oak, sugar maple, white ash and black cherry command very high prices.  The highest grade hardwood logs go to veneer mills for conversion to products for furniture, paneling and cabinets.  Other high grade logs are sawn into lumber for furniture, cabinets, flooring, and paneling.  Lower grade hardwood logs go into pallets and railroad ties.  

Our white pine, if pruned for clear lumber production, is also very valuable (PPPRUNE MEMO).  Small-knotted white pine lumber is used for furniture, paneling, and sidings for houses.  Large-knotted white pine is used for landscape ties and one-way pallets.  Hemlock lumber is used for framing and siding of barns and out-buildings, and for making forms for concrete in construction projects.  Pine, hemlock and oak timbers are used in post-and-beam houses.

Low grade softwood also goes to pulp mills for conversion to paper products.  Low grade hardwoods are converted to firewood or  woodchips.

Sugar maple stands produce sap for boiling down into maple syrup.  Some forests produce wild mushrooms, nuts, fruit, and even ginseng.  These food products can also be produced under cultivated conditions for additional income to the forest landowner.  The body of knowledge about the production of these `non traditional forest products` is growing rapidly as more and more people learn the hard way and pass on their knowledge.

How about the less tangible, non-monetary values of our forests? 

Forests absorb carbon dioxide and produce much of the oxygen that we and other animals breathe (ECOSYSTEM SERVICES ESSAY).  Along with the oceans, forests are the lungs of the Earth.  The respiration and transpiration of forests cool and cleanse the air.  Forests intercept and absorb rainfall, preventing soil erosion and siltation of our streams and rivers.  Trees absorb the sun's energy and convert it into wood, reducing the amount of heat reflected back into the atmosphere and cooling it.

Researchers recently estimated the value of these `services` that forests provide at around $100/acre/year (COSTANZA LINK).  Like so much of what nature provides, we take these `services` for granted.  We also underestimate the impact of our collective activities on the capability of our natural systems to continue to provide these `services.`