Forest Practices

Larry Caldwell larryc at
Thu Apr 3 19:21:17 EST 1997

In article <3342F9F1.43E2 at>,
Don Staples <dstaples at> wrote:

> Cannot comment on the use of the
> helicopter and herbicide, but, in the south, even on slope, grass and
> ground cover will be back in before the brush cover roots are
> degenerated enough to cause soil movement.  That is from the south,
> where 45 degree slopes are not part of our equation.  But, mud slides
> and flooding are big in the PNW this year (I need to tell you?), some
> would point to the land management, rather that a 100 year rain
> phenomenon.  Could be both, not my call.

By "far past the normal angle of repose" I meant about a 75 degree slope,
composed of fine wind-deposited loam 3 feet thick.  The ONLY reason that
stuff is still there is because the slope has never been bare.  I've 
planted the understory with doug fir, but it will be 20 years before the
fir is adequately established to take over the job of soil nailing the
dirt to the hillside.  In the meantime, I'm going to have to slash
and squirt selectively to relieve the understory or lose it.

I did have one slide last winter, but it was in an area that hadn't been
disturbed since the 1930's.  A spring just gushered out and liquified
a whole slope, and down it went.  After it hit the bottom it ran 
horizontally for 100 yards across a pasture before it dumped into the
creek.  Now I've got a foot of rocks, shale, mud and trees in a big
track across my pasture with no place to put it.  I sure can't push
it into the creek, and it's too trashy to plow under.  Maybe I'll plant
it to timber. :)

It sounds like you are running into a bunch of urban cowboys who don't
understand how much work a farm is.  I just spent a whole week burning
underbrush that I sprayed out last summer, and only cleared about 3
acres.  At some point I'll run out of time, so I'm starting on the worst
acreage and working my way up.  When it gets too dry to burn I'll switch
to a chainsaw and cut trash.  Unless you have a farm background it's hard
to imagine how much you can accomplish in 500 hours a year, or what a
fine return you can get on your time.  I am hoping that pulp prices come
back up sometime soon.  I've got a lot of trash to get rid of.

> In your neck of the woods, the life time had better be long.  Consider
> it a gift to your next generation, and play with the babies momma for
> more generation.  Timber is long term, far longer than human designs
> would have it.

It depends on the species and what you want to sell.  Thirty year old
doug fir will be easily 12" at the butt and scale 60 to 90 bf. (Scribner) 
If you're thinning 150 per acre, that can be a tidy little paycheck, 
particularly if you can get 15 years of pasturage out of the land before
the canopy closes over.

The maximum stocking foresters recommend around here is about 350 trees
per acre.  Lots of landowners plant at twice that and count on taking a
couple thinnings.

> Again, depends on the location, I routinely cruise timber for banks,
> real estate, land owners, etc, to establish land and timber tables for
> tax, sale, or investment determination.

And when you cruise, how do you value an acre of plantation stocked at
350 10-year old trees per acre, brush suppressed and free to grow?  At
that point, most of the management is done.  I'd assess that at $10
a tree, and say it was worth $3500 per acre over and above the value of
the bare land.  Where do you put it?

> A no-brainer that costs the land owner millions in the south.  Simple
> management that a land owner can understand easily, is ignored.  Greed
> takes over.  To many land owners come through my door saying how good a
> price they received for "really small timber" that had been growing
> since "I was a boy".  They had no concept of the market, the product, or
> the procedure.  I run a simple program and show them what the real
> market is, and they get mad at me for indicating they got less than they
> should.  Rather than use a professional, they gamble on the good nature
> of the timber buyers.  Sheep among the wolves.

Yeah, well, I have a next door neighbor who sold some 'sparse' timber on
1600 acres last year.  He needed the money, and ended up clearing about
$150,000.  From what I saw, he got about 10% of the value of the timber.
I wouldn't say that stump stupid is exclusive to the south. :)  However,
that was because he let a logger sweet talk him into easy cash.  If he had
hired a logger and sold the trees to the mill himself, he would have got
an honest scale and an honest price.  

The kid used the money to buy out relatives, and now he owns the homestead
free and clear.  True to form, he's only replanting what the state is 
forcing him to replant.  Meanwhile he thinks he's a cattle rancher, and
managed to destroy acres of seedlings running cattle on them the first year.
At $60/cwt, he's not making enough off of cattle to pay for fences, while
if he rotated the north slopes into timber his children would all be 
> I can tell anecdotal stories all day, on the foolishness of land owners
> and foresters.  The simple truth is the profession has not sold its
> self, and the land owner sees us all as "loggers".  Kind of like
> thinking doctors are undertakers, well, maybe bad example, but not a bad
> simile.

Up until the last 20 years, trees have been free.  That has changed quite
a bit, and is going to change a lot more.  By the time a new plantation
today reaches maturity it will be the only timber left in the world.  The
legacy forests will all be either cut down or tied up in reserves.  It's
been a shock to the old timers in the industry, but things are changing

My place has been creamed two or three times since the 1950's, with no
attempt at management.  I could do it again, or do a little management 
and let the trees grow.  If someone had done in 1950 what I'm doing now,
I never would have been able to afford this place.  It would be worth
millions.  There's a lesson there somewhere.

-- Larry

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