Working To Create A Greener World – Jan. 7, 2019

Responsible Forestry in Working Woods

In October 2018, Holden Forests & Gardens ecologist Katie Stuble blogged about research in Working Woods. Here’s a fresh look for the new year on how we understand Working Woods from a forestry and conservation perspective.

The State of the Woods

Although drastically less than the 95 percent of forested land that covered Ohio prior to European settlement, Ohio is fortunate enough to have 33 percent of its land cover in trees. These woodlands are mostly privately owned – more than 85 percent[1], which poses some interesting challenges. Private landowners face many difficulties in keeping their woodlots healthy. Challenges include ill-informed logging practices, pressure from logging companies, succession planning, fragmentation, pests, disease and invasive plants. Good forestry works with nature so both people and the woods can thrive. We are modeling different methods as a resource not only for landowners but also for other natural resource professionals, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, soil & water conservation and park districts, consulting foresters and more.

Income and Regeneration: A Single-Tree Selection Cut

There are good and bad ways to harvest trees. Bad practices – make it difficult for forests to grow healthily or to re-grow. Landowners also suffer financially from bad and unfair logging practices. In the southern portion of Working Woods, timber is being marked, cut, removed and sold in a way that tells the story of beneficial tree harvest from start to finish. This practice is called single-tree selection, which focuses on removing old, dying, or poorly-formed trees first rather than ‘high-grading’ the best and leaving the rest. This allows for an uneven-aged forest with enough healthy trees for the forest to regenerate in a short period of time.

Thinning and Revitalization: An Improvement Cut

The northern portion of the Woods is young, unhealthy woods of low biodiversity and dense, even-aged red maple/tulip poplar trees.  This condition is common in Ohio, usually because of old agricultural land reverting to trees, which grow in thick and choked. A forestry strategy that Working Woods demonstrates in this area is an Improvement Cut: thinning poorly-formed trees to create more space and access to resources for the healthiest trees, allowing them to grow faster. To further increase forest health, no trees are being extracted from the improvement cut. Instead, selected trees are felled as habitat and nutrient sources or are ‘girdled’ (living bark cut) and remain standing to create wildlife habitat. Additionally, invasive weedy plants will be controlled.

How Working Woods will Work

Landowners, natural resource professionals, interested public and more will be able to come to classes and symposia on woodlot management, agroforestry and other educational programs in these demonstration areas. These programs are currently being developed and will be posted on the website and in HF&G publications once they are available.

We are excited about how this project can change the narrative of forestry in our region. In short: Working Woods is a collaboration between conservation, forestry, research and education to create a living laboratory and demonstration site of good land stewardship practices.

[1] U.S. Forest Service Ohio Forest Assessment, 2017.

By Jessica Miller, Community Forestry Research Specialist; edited by Adi Shiloh, Tree Care Coordinator.

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