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Forests for the Long Run

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Published on: Feb. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

their best. Wholesale cutting of immature stands can bring quick financial rewards, but the replenishment time is so long that it makes little economic sense in the long run. Forests have their greatest value when they are maintained for the long haul.

A well-managed forest increases in both volume and value at an unbelievable rate. Young forests contain mostly cordwood, which is sold by the ton and has almost no value. As trees mature and their diameters increase, they pass through stages when they can be used for pallet wood, ties, grade lumber and, finally, veneer and barrel staves. At every stage of maturity, both the amount of wood and the value of the wood products that can be gleaned from trees escalates.

This doesn't mean you have to wait to gain financially from your timber. As your stand matures, you can sell trees likely to die soon or poor quality trees, giving the best trees ample room to grow. This culling and thinning allows you to reap some profit from your forest even as it appreciates in value.

You won't gain any interest without some principle in the bank, however. That's why the cardinal sin in forest management is liquidating your assets too early. Clear-cutting a forest before its time deprives you of its long-term profit potential. The economics are simple: don't take a dime now in exchange for a bunch of nickels in the future. The new chip mills being established in Missouri could contribute even more value to your forest land. Chip mills chop up small trees and parts of trees into wafers for use in papermaking. Unlike lumber mills, chip mills aren't concerned with the quality of timber. They only want a lot of it. They can process wood too small or limby to create saw wood, including most of the topwood of trees cut for lumber.

The value of chip mills may be in providing a market for trees that need harvesting to improve the remaining stand. They may also provide a market for the tops and roundwood remaining after a timber harvest. In the past, these leftovers would have had little value.

Eventually, the majority of the trees in your stand will be at their prime and will be ripe for harvest. That's the time to take advantage of them. Remove them all at once, obtain the highest dollar and regenerate a new population of trees that will serve

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