When considering the way that a responsible harvest of trees is planned, it is not a stretch to say that more thought is actually given to growing trees than to cutting trees. This concept is known as silviculture, a word simply defined as, the cultivation or growing of trees. Frost Valley uses sivicultural prescriptions to manage our forests. Silvicultural prescriptions are just as they sound, literally prescriptions for the forest. Keeping various factors and goals in mind, a prescription can be developed for growing trees in a particular forest stand. Back in 2002, Frost Valley worked with a forestry company to inventory our entire property and come up with a long term forest management plan. The information gained from that endeavor has been used ever since to develop prescriptions and make management decisions. There are various types of prescriptions. One example that has been used on our property is a shelterwood regeneration prescription, or simply “shelterwood”. In a shelterwood, all trees are harvested except for mature trees of targeted species. The trees that are left behind are carefully chosen as having the best genetics for optimal forest health and timber production. This is important because these are the trees that will be providing the seeds that will regenerate the forest in the area. When the time comes that the young forest has sufficiently regenerated, these original trees can be harvested to allow more sunlight to reach their younger tree offspring.
Before any prescription is decided upon, an up to date inventory of the current status of the particular forest stand must take place. A large sampling of data is required. Trees are measured for height and diameter, species are identified, and health of trees is analyzed. All of this data gathered in the field is then inputted into a forest management simulator computer program where it can be scrutinized in detail to come up with the best possible prescription. Sometimes the results for a particular area indicate that no trees should be harvested at this time. In this case, inventory would be carried out elsewhere. Once a prescription is decided upon, trees are marked and cut according to those guidelines.
One of the most valuable lessons that our forest management practices can demonstrate is the value of a working landscape. What I mean by this specifically is the fact that logging isn’t always evil and doesn’t always mean clear-cutting of entire mountainsides. If done properly, a logging operation can benefit the forest ecosystem in many ways. It can improve habitat for wildlife by creating more young trees as forage for deer and create larger areas of early successional habitat for ground nesting birds. It can improve the health of the trees by removing undesirable and diseased trees and leaving behind the healthy ones, much the same way wolves benefit the overall health of a caribou herd. It can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by providing a fuel source that is renewable and local. All these benefits and more can be achieved from harvesting our own firewood. Next time you are enjoying a nice warm campfire at Frost Valley, take a moment to appreciate your locally sourced, sustainably harvested firewood!