Mature timber

Ron Wenrich woodtick at lebmofo.com
Sun Mar 2 10:13:13 EST 1997


I talked with the trucker at a sawmill yesterday, and he said he saw the
nicest walnut log at a veneer yard in Maryland.  The log was 39 inches at
the end of a 15 foot log.  Value - $50,000.  It sounds a little high -
$42/bf.

It sort of makes you wonder if having a maximum diameter on a tree is
necessarily a good idea.  I used to think that 26 inches in oak was a
maximum diameter.  At that point, the rate of growth and the rate of value
increase had slowed sufficiently to warrant removal - from an economic
standpoint.  However, I have left trees much larger than this, if they were
healthy -  but mainly for aesthetics or for stocking.  I once marked a 36
inch red oak which was only 75 years old.  Unbelievable growth.

My question is:  at what point should we be marking timber for removal? 
Are others using some point where we feel a tree is mature and, therefore,
ready for market?  Are there other criteria we should be looking at?  Given
the amount of value increase which is possible on these larger trees,
aren't they worth letting stand?

I am noticing that the size of timber coming into the mills are getting
smaller and smaller. There is not nearly as much grade in a 14 inch log as
there is in a 20 inch log, i.e. lower value per Mbf.  Smaller logs are also
more expensive to process.  Wouldn't it be prudent to leave these smaller
trees in the woods and lengthen the rotation age on certain crop trees?  Or
is money always the decision making factor?

I always have tried to maintain an average of 18-20 inch diameter on timber
sales, while leaving a good amount of 18+ trees in the woods.  However,
usually a logger or another forester comes along in about 10 years and
wipes the stand out.  

Ron Wenrich



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