Traditional Forest Products
Yes, you can have your forest and cut it too! Forestry is a science-based practice that works towards the complexity and stability of an ecosystem while meeting our society’s wood product needs. Rhode Islanders consume large amounts of wood products each year, yet wood production continues to decline, putting more pressure on foreign imports. It’s time to push aside the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) mentality!
The wood products we use come in various shapes and sizes. The highest quality trees become sawlogs or veneer, which are used for construction, furniture, flooring, and much more. Lower quality trees become fuel wood or pulpwood (for paper-making), and specialty products, such as poles or boat-making materials, are also occasionally in demand. (These link to glossary)
Carbon sequestration, biodiversity, aesthetics, and wildlife are all compatible with a sustainable timber harvest because foresters aim to mimic natural succession and natural disturbances. Thinning is a cutting practice that eliminates some trees so that others can grow better. These trees would likely become suppressed by competition, but speeding up the process gives other trees more space to grow while providing a wood source to the landowner.
A regeneration harvest removes mature trees in a way that favors new growth. The technique is determined by the existing species, light requirements, and the ability of stumps to develop sprouts. Some common techniques used in Rhode Island include:
- Group Selection Method: Groups, or clumps, of trees are harvested together, and the space they occupied will be reseeded by an adjacent clump.
- Shelterwood Harvest: Reserve trees are chosen and left to shade new regeneration after a harvest. When the new growth is thriving, these large reserve trees may be removed for sale or left for their value to wildlife.
- Commercial Clearcut: All merchantable trees are removed for sale, often leaving trees of poor quality that can decrease future growth and value in the stand.
- Silvicultural Clearcut: All of the overstory trees are removed for sale to promote the growth of sun-loving species.
- Coppice with Standards: Coppice trees sprout from the stumps of a recent harvest into shrub-like growth – perfect for firewood. These trees, as well as medicinal shrubs like witch hazel, can be grown in the understory while timber trees thrive in the overstory.
- Diameter Limit Harvest: Trees above a certain diameter are harvested for sale. This can often lead to high-grading, a practice that harvests all of the best trees, therefore leaving trees of poor quality for the next time around. The technique does not promote increased timber value or sustainability of your resources.