Land Management Program
The Division of Forestry actively practices forest management through the direct application of silviculture on Ohio State Forests. Silvics is the branch of natural science that deals with the principles underlying the growth and development of single trees and of the forest as a biological unit. Therefore, silvics provides the foundation of silviculture, which is the art and science of producing, tending, and controlling forest establishment, composition, structure, and growth. Silviculture is the most ancient conscious application of the science of ecology, and arose before the word “ecology” was coined. Since it is impossible to shield forests from nature, silviculture is far more of an imitation of natural processes than of a substitution for them (The Practice of Silviculture, David M. Smith, 1986).
The Division of Forestry employs silvicultural practices in order to promote forest health on a landscape scale. Many scientists believe the prevalent eastern US oak/hickory forests are declining and being replaced by more shade tolerant species such as red maple due to the lack of openings in the forest. Through harvesting we can create conditions more suitable for oak trees to regenerate from acorns.
There are two basic silvicultural systems used on state forests – even-aged and uneven-aged systems. Even-aged* silvicultural systems manage trees that are approximately the same age with the goal of regenerating the stand. Even-aged treatments are separated into intermediate harvests and final harvests. Examples of intermediate even-aged treatments include improvement harvests* or crown thinnings. Examples of final harvests include shelterwoods*, seed-tree harvests*, and clearcutting*. Even-aged systems are designed to promote the regeneration of tree species that are intermediate in shade tolerance or shade intolerant, in other words, species that require more sunlight for establishment.
Uneven-aged* silvicultural systems seek to manage stands containing trees that are in at least three different age classes. Examples of uneven-aged treatments include singletree selection* and group selection*. Trees are removed in small gaps that open up the stand for younger trees to take their place in the canopy. Because these small canopy gaps are usually small, uneven-aged harvests favor shade-tolerant species such as beech and maple.
Silvicultural treatments are accomplished in two ways – precommercial or commercial treatments. The goal of precommercial treatments is to develop more healthy and valuable stands of trees for future management. Examples of common precommercial treatments include invasive plant control
, grapevine control, and crop-tree release
. Because these treatments do not generate saleable products, the cost must be carried forward until a commercial harvest is made. Commercial treatments are generally accomplished via timber sales.
Ailanthus stems marked for removal.
Timber Sales on Ohio State Forests
Foresters apply the science of silviculture on state forests and use timber harvesting as a beneficial tool. Harvesting can improve the overall health and condition of the forest by removing trees of poor health and vigor that are prone to attack from insects and disease. It also can reduce the stands susceptibility to natural disturbances such as wildfire and ice storms.
The timber sale program is designed to benefit state forests and the state’s economy. The timber is sold by competitive bid to Ohio’s $15 billion forest industry that employs over 119,000 people. We sell standing trees and then give the purchaser the right to enter state forest property and remove the trees. We supervise this process carefully by marking trees to be harvested and observing their actual removal as seen in the photos below.
Our timber harvests are sustainable. Between 8 million and 10 million board feet of timber are harvested annually from our Ohio State Forests. Conservative estimates show that we are growing at least 20 million board feet annually. That means our harvests are far below what is growing, increasing the age of forested land each year. Two-thirds of the revenues from timber sales are given back to the local community, including local school districts. We call it the Trees to Textbooks
program. The state keeps the remaining revenue.
All timber sales are prepared in the same fashion; however they may be accomplished in different ways. Two basic methods are used – stumpage sales and product sales. Stumpage sales are the most common. In a stumpage sale, bid prospectuses are sent to a list of prospective buyers detailing the individual sale. Buyers then have 3-4 weeks to review the sale on the ground and make their determination of value. Sealed bids are sent in and opened at a predetermined time. The highest bidder typically wins the bid, and after posting bond has 1-2 years to complete the sale, depending on contract length. Another type of sale is product sales. In product sales, the Division of Forestry contracts with a logger to provide the logging service. Logs are delivered to a centralized location and the Division is then responsible for bucking, grading, and sorting the logs. Sealed bids are accepted for logs sorted based on grade and species.
Even-aged management clearcut
No matter the method of bidding, the standards for harvesting on state forests all meet or exceed the statewide Best Management Practices (BMP) requirements.
As part of the Division of Forestry’s commitment to improving logging practices in the state, only Ohio Forestry Association Master Loggers
are allowed to harvest state forest timber.
Harvests are closely managed by a timber sale contract administrator. This forester ensures that all contract provisions are followed during the sale – including harvesting only the designated timber, limiting residual damage, and enforcing BMP requirements. At the completion of the sale, the contractor’s bond is not released until the Division ensures all contract requirements were completed.
Actual waterbar in Richland Furnace State Forest
Inventory and GIS
In 2009, a large inventory project was accomplished on about 155,000 acres of state forests, the first comprehensive inventory since the 1950’s. This inventory provided data for growth and yield models as well as guidance for future prescription cruising and timber sale activities. Click here
to see a complete forest inventory of eight (8) Ohio State Forests by LandMark Systems.
Managing large amounts of data for forests can be complicated. Historically, paper records were kept in file cabinets. This can be an efficient way to manage small individual stands and even compartments. However managing on a larger landscape scale requires a different approach.
In 2007, the Division of Forestry invested in a geographic information system (GIS) designed specifically for managing forests. This system allows users to view and manage data and activities from a stand-level to forest-level scale. Data from projects like the state forest inventory project as well as data from prepared timber sales are inputted into the system. In the future all activities will be scheduled and managed in this GIS.
Each year, approximately 5% of state forest acreage is inventoried for potential silvicultural treatment. Foresters visit stands and collect sampling data on tree health and volumes. They use this information to generate a silvicultural prescription that will guide future activities like precommercial treatments and timber sales.
Many factors are considered when preparing a potential timber sale. We review threatened and endangered species, archeological or historical sites, visual qualities, soil types, and current recreational uses to name a few. These considerations are weighed against silvicultural goals for the site at the time of prescription. Often timber sales can be complementary to other uses, such as opening up more light for shade intolerant plants and creating early successional wildlife habitat.