Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hardwood Management Update

Here's a quick update on the hardwood (Birch) logging project which I described in length in the previous post.

The logging is now complete, the products hauled away to the mills, and the site is prepared for the natural regeneration that we are seeking. We harvested this site very aggressively, leaving a relatively small number of high quality trees for both shelter and seed source. The following is an excerpt of the Forest Management Plan for our Wolf Lake property. It serves as a good summary of what we've done so far, and what we will do with this stand going forward:

"White Birch is found as a component in Northern Hardwood cover types and also as a dominant species in separate stands. When in separate stands it is generally on soils and sites in which it best competes, but will be shorter lived. Best management will likely be growing it even-aged and eventually regenerating it in a new even-aged stand. As the stand is developing there will be mortality from environmental and climate conditions (drought, etc.), pathogens, and natural thinning, creating gaps that likely will fill with Balsam Fir or other early successional species. To keep the stand from succeeding away from Birch a three-step silvicultural technique is required. Once the stand shows clear delineation between healthy prospective crop trees and lower quality trees, a winter entry can be made to thin the stand and remove competition. Care should be taken to not overly open the canopy and cause significant ground temperature rise. After the stand gains maturity, a second entry is made as a shelterwood or seed tree harvest with the bulk of the stand being removed during bare-ground conditions so that a good seed bed is created for regeneration and ground-level herbaceous species and competitive hazel brush are set back. After a good seed drop and confirmed seedling establishment the third step is performed and the seed trees are removed. These should still be healthy because they were originally the highest quality, healthiest trees in the stand."

In the case of this particular stand of timber, which we call "Birch Flats", we modified the management prescription slighty. We retained a significant number of high quality Hard Maple trees which will be left again on the next harvest, to ultimately grow to sawlog trees, and hopefully provide a source of seed with superior genetics. We also left mature Red Oak and White Pine in the shelterwood canopy as a source of acorns and seed. Thus, although we are primarily managing "Birch Flats" as a Birch stand and according to Birch management prescription, we are also retaining the Red Oak, Hard Maple, and White Pine as diverse components of the stand.

Our "yields" from the logging process were more than satisfactory. The total volumes of sawproduct (those logs that go to the sawmill for lumber and veneer) and pulpwood (logs that are manufactured into paper or engineered products like oriented strand board) were as expected. But the percentage of sawlogs in the Birch was higher than we had predicted, which was an encouraging result.

The sawlogs that went to our Rajala Mill in Bigfork MN, have been sawn and processed and shipped off to customers. We made a few value added products from this site also, including Red Premium Knotty Birch plywood which went into a custom kitchen job, along with matching solid lumber from the same job. This cabinet job has received high marks from the local design community and is generating a demand for this local "exotic". Now you know the full story!!

As a final celebration of this successful project, I leave you with some fun images of a Birch bark canoe made by Ray Boesel from Birch bark that he harvested from this site. Ray is world renowned for his skill as an authentic Birch bark canoe builder. Ray is also a sensible "man of the forest" and knows how to work with the landowner to meet his material needs. We were thrilled to be able to have Ray harvest bark on a coordinated basis along with our timber harvest.

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