Volume 3, No. 4                                                                                            Early Spring, 1996

The Value of Forest Stewardship

As noted in our last issue, the federal government has cut back its funding for forest management cost sharing. The reductions come when the number of landowners applying for cost-shares is going up. Even if funding had not gone down, it is unlikely that there would have been enough cost share dollars to cover all the eligible practices of the growing number of participants in the Forest Stewardship program.

Faced with the "cost share crunch", you may ask, "Should I invest in forest management activities even if I have to bear the full cost?" The answer is a resounding YES! Timber prices in all categories have steadily increased over the long term, despite short term ups and downs. The increases have generally exceeded the rate of inflation. In other words, relative to many other things in the economic world, trees are worth more today than they were 20, 30, or 40 years ago. With an increasing population and likely decrease in forest land area it is probable that stumpage prices will continue to outpace inflation.

As Florida's urban areas continue to expand, the intrinsic value of other forest resources--wildlife, recreation, aesthetics, clean air and water--also increases. In light of that, investments in forest management objectives other than timber production seem bound to pay off, although the returns are not always measured in dollars.

Another important reason for adopting the Forest Stewardship Program on your land, with or without cost sharing, is the opportunity to get information and assistance from the natural resource professionals who help you develop your management plan.

The Forest Stewardship Program is one of the premier opportunities for non-industrial landowners to sustainably manage their forests--and the nation's forests. Your neighbors, as well as the local tax assessment office, view your involvement as proof of your long-term commitment to sound natural resource management.

Florida Stewardship and SIP Updates

As you may be aware, Montana's Stewardship program trains landowners to write their own management plans. While most Florida landowners are satisfied with the system in use here, the Florida program now offers a "Montana approach" to any landowner who prefers to write his or her own plan. In these cases, the resource professionals who would ordinarily take the lead in plan preparation will provide "one-on-one coaching" of the landowner prior to plan preparation. Then, they will review the landowners prepared plan to ensure that it meets program requirements.

To make reduced SIP funds go farther, the following changes have been made for Florida. They will affect applications approved after April 1, 1996, when the current year's funds should become available.

Sustainable Forestry

Although the word "sustainability" has become prominent in conversations these days, it is not new to forest management. In 1937 and 1944 the U.S. Congress referred to "sustained yield" in two legislative acts related to our forests. In 1897, one of the basic purposes of the National Forests was defined as "a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of the people of the United States."

Currently, at local, national, and global scales, landowners and governments are being asked to show where they stand with regard to "sustainable forest management". Involvement in the Forest Stewardship Program is an important way for non-industrial private landowners develop their commitment to sustainability.

In the last three years US forest industry has moved in the same direction with the adoption of the American Forest and Paper Association's (AF&PA) "Sustainable Forestry Initiative" (SFI). The five general SFI principles, by which the AF&PA members commit to manage their lands, are appropriate for any landowner:

SAF/SFRC        Spring          Symposium,
Sustainable       Forest      Management:
Concepts and Reality
,  April 23-24 in
Gainesville.  For more information contact
Alan Long at (352) 846-0898,   fax  846-
1277, E-mail   ajl@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu;    or
Cindy Love at 846-0849

The five SFI principles are accompanied by Implementation Guidelines or performance measures, which again are suitable for non-industrial ownerships as well as forest industry:

Several other guidelines relate to industry roles in promoting research, improvements in wood utilization, and private property rights. Between the Forest Stewardship Program and SFI a strong foundation has been laid for the long-term productivity, health, and diversity of our nation's private forest lands.

Florida's Forests: Summer Workshops for Students and Teachers

Here's an opportunity for your children or grandchildren, ages 10-14, or those of your friends, relatives, or neighbors, to learn more about the economic and ecological value of Florida's forests. Beginning June 23, the Florida Division of Forestry offers five challenging, one week outdoor workshops for middle school age children. The sessions will be held at the Withlacoochie Environmental Center in West Central Florida, about 60 miles north of Tampa. Foresters, other natural resource professionals, and school teachers will lead the training activities. Up to 60 kids can participate in each workshop. The fee is $180.00 per child. Some scholarships are available. If you know of an individual or business who would like to support these worthy efforts, you might be able to establish a scholarship fund for kids from your area.

If any of your own children or grandchildren attend, we expect they'll come back eager to help you carry out your Stewardship management plan.

Before these sessions for school children, 36 schoolteachers will attend a six-day intensive program to learn more about Florida's forests and about sharing that information with their pupils. Each of these teachers will then be an instructor for one of the student workshops described above. It is expected that any teacher would benefit from this program, but it would be especially valuable for teachers who do not yet have much experience in "environmental education". If you know of teachers in your area who have the energy and the commitment to "spread the word" among students and co-workers after completing this program, please encourage them to attend.

For more information about these workshops contact your County Forester or the "Florida's Forests and Environmental Education" (FF & EE) Program:

Division of Forestry
FF & EE Program
3125 Conner Blvd.
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1650
(904) 488-6591

A Look at Thinning

Here in North Florida, in the middle of one of the world's biggest concentrations of paper mills, pine pulpwood plantations make good financial sense. Prepare the land, plant, and once the trees are big enough to sell, harvest and start again. Most of our pine plantations can be clearcut for pulpwood 20-25 years after planting. It's a good way to go, but on many sites it's not the only way. By including one thinning you can grow most of your trees to about age 30, harvest some higher value wood as well as pulpwood, and come out looking about as good--sometimes better--financially. Somewhat older, thinned plantations have appeal to landowners who are interested in improved wildlife habitat, recreation, aesthetics, or in putting more that one product class of wood on the market.

As far as timber production goes, thinning allows the remaining trees (residual stand) to keep up their growth rate, rather than slow down as they would without thinning. A well-timed thinning means you get larger trees--and higher value products--sooner. If you are going to thin, do it before the trees have grown so crowded that only the very top of the tree has live branches. As a rule of thumb the "live crown", that portion of the tree with living branches, should not be less than 35% of total tree height when the trees are thinned. Following a thinning, each remaining tree receives more sunlight. However, a tree with a very small crown cannot take full advantage of the extra light. Keep an eye on the percent live crown of trees in the interior of the stand; trees on the edge--often next to some sort of clearing or stand of younger, shorter trees--will often mislead you with larger crowns.

Let's compare a pulpwood rotation with no thinnings to a longer rotation with one thinning. For this example we use a slash pine plantation on a cutover flatwoods site of average productivity. Planting density is 700-800 seedlings per acre, with a typical survival of 600-700 young trees after one year. We assume that site preparation and vegetation management practices appropriate to the site are used. In the shorter rotation, the stand is clearcut at age 20-25, yielding a total harvest of 30 or more cords per acre, almost all pulpwood. The exact age at harvest time would depend on the landowner's cash flow situation and the attractiveness of pine pulpwood stumpage prices. In the longer rotation, a thinning would be done when the trees are about 17-19 years old, yielding around 8-10 cords of pulpwood per acre. The final harvest would occur about ten years later (age 25-30), and would yield 27 or more cords per acre, including about 10 cords of "chip-'n-saw", which lately has been bringing the landowner at least 60% more value per cord than pulpwood.

Please take note: the above example applies only to certain type of stand on a certain type of site. If you are dealing with old field plantations, upland or sandhill sites, other species of pine, or poorer or better (fertilized) flatwoods sites, the yields and the timing of thinning and final harvest will probably differ from this example. In particular, old field plantations are likely to grow faster, permitting a first thinning for present income and optimum future stand growth around age 14-16. Also, especially if you're growing loblolly or longleaf pines, you may want to consider rotations longer than 30 years and more than one thinning.

Remember that compared to final harvests, thinnings usually involve smaller average tree size, lower total volume for sale, and less volume to be cut per acre. For those reasons, thinnings often involve higher logging costs per cord and that means lower stumpage prices. As a rule of thumb (for any sale), if total sale volume is under 500 cords and/or if per acre volume is much below 10 cords, you will probably have to settle for a lower than average price for your timber.

A common and easy way to thin is to take out every third row of trees. Each remaining tree then gets additional sunlight on the side next to where a row of trees was cut. Sometimes selected trees--mainly diseased, poorly formed, and smaller ones--are also cut from the other rows. Another common method is to cut every fifth row and use the space left by each cut row as a path to enter the stand and harvest selected trees from the other rows. (Figure Below)

This method is better for future growth of the stand, but requires loggers who are skilled and experienced at thinning and willing to be careful not to damage standing trees. Either way, 30-40% of the wood volume is removed on the first thinning. In Florida, as a rule of thumb, for the best payoff after a thinning, a stand will need to grow about ten more years.

If you have fully-stocked young plantations or natural stands that you'd like to grow past the age of about 25 years--for wildlife, aesthetics, recreation, biodiversity, or wood product diversification--you are probably going to need to thin them at least once. If your goal is maximum timber profits, a short rotation pulpwood-growing operation (20-25 years and no thinning) may be your best bet. But, don't take it for granted. For most sites it is worth taking time to compare the following four options:

  1. no thinning or fertilization; clearcut at about age 20-25 (mostly pulpwood);
  2. fertilization at age 8-12 but no thinning; clearcut at about age 20-25 (mostly pulpwood and some chip-n-saw );
  3. thinning but no fertilization; thin at age 14-19 (all pulpwood); clearcut at age 27-30; (up to 40% chip-n-saw and perhaps some sawtimber);
  4. thinning and fertilization; thin at age 14-19 (almost all pulpwood); clearcut at age 25-30 (pulpwood, c-n-s, probably some sawtimber/plylogs).

Many landowners will find that well-timed thinning or a combination of fertilization and thinning is an attractive option for at least some of their stands.

On a holding with one very large young stand, the landowner might find it advantageous to thin one portion, clearcut the other portion a few years later, and several years after that, clearcut the thinned area. Instead of one big clearcut and one large sum of money, the owner would receive timber income at three separate times and increase habitat diversity for wildlife.

A possible option for a holding with a large continuous area of pine plantations of about the same age is to clearcut most of the timber for pulpwood while leaving 30-50 yard-wide bands of uncut trees as wildlife corridors. Thinning within those strips of trees would further benefit wildlife and enhance future timber values. The strips of trees could be harvested once the new stands planted on the clearcut areas were well-established and many of the trees in the strips were large enough for higher-value products.

Overcrowding is not the only thing that makes tree growth slow down. If crowding is not the problem, then thinning is not the (whole) solution. On nutrient-poor sites, particularly in the flatwoods, trees stop growing because certain key nutrients are no longer available. They need fertilizer and/or weed control (to free up nutrients that had been taken up by understory vegetation). Once the nutrient problem is remedied, a thinning might eventually be worthwhile. Also, there are quite a few cases of slash pine being planted on soils that are too well-drained for that species. When those stands practically stop growing, thinning won't help. There may be nothing you can do except hope the trees manage to get big enough to sell before you have to cut them down. Then, start over with a species that is more suitable to that kind of site (longleaf or sand pine).

In a thinned stand, the freshly cut stumps and wounds left on standing trees can attract pests that endanger the remaining trees. In a high risk area for Southern Pine Beetle and other bark beetle attacks, avoid thinning in the summer, when the beetles can spread most rapidly. In areas where the root rot fungus, Fomes annosus , is a problem, avoid thinning in mid-winter, when weather conditions are right for this fungus to spread and grow. If both of these pests are a problem in your area, thin in winter and immediately apply borax to the fresh stumps to keep Fomes annosus from growing on them and later attacking the roots of live trees.

If you are considering a thinning, please contact a forestry consultant or your county forester for assistance.

Monthly Longleaf Learning

We just heard that a 1996 "Longleaf Legacies" calendar/booklet, produced right here in Florida, hangs in the Washington, D.C. office of the U.S. Forest Service research director. This is one 1996 calendar that's worth buying three or four months after the year's beginning. It contains much interesting information about longleaf pine ( Pinus palustris ), a valuable timber tree that is also the hallmark of some of the richest plant and animal communities in North America. Longleaf pine may or may not be suitable for your land and your management objectives. But either way, this calendar can add to your knowledge of Florida's forest history and provide food for thought about the many valuable things, with and without price tags, that come from the woods.

While, some landowners are working to restore longleaf ecosystems primarily to preserve some of the Florida's natural history, the calendar authors, Carol Goodwin and Julie Moore, also emphasize that growing longleaf timber can be a profitable undertaking.

Ms. Goodwin plans to put all the writing and pictures from the 1995 and 1996 calendars into a small book that should come out this summer. To order 1996 calendars ($8.50 each, postpaid) or get to more information about the book or the 1997 calendar, contact:

Long Needle Press
PO Box 141464
Gainesville, Florida
(352) 466-0090; fax (352) 466-0608

Keep on surfin'

If you have access to an "on-line" personal computer at home, work, or the local public library, surf on over to http://www.uga.edu/~soforext/usdafsr8/spf/coopfor/taxtips.htm for a taste of the (near) future. There you'll find tax specialist Larry Bishop's update for tax year 1995, "Tax Tips for Forest Landowners" (Management Bulletin R8-MB 74). Read it on the screen or print out a copy. We expect that within a few years, many forestry extension publications, including newsletters like this one, will be available at the USDA Southeast Region Extension Forester's home page (http://www.uga.edu/~soforext) and other Internet locations.

Upcoming Workshops

* Tall Timbers research station north of Tallahassee will hold its Spring Game Bird "Field Day" Tues, April 9 from noon to 8:30 pm, with supper. Members $40, non-members $60 (includes 1 yr. membership). Results of research on game bird management will be presented. Call (904) 893-4153 for more information.

* Monsanto Co. will host a "Forum for Foresters" in Lake City on Wed., April 17. A variety of technical topics will be presented. Landowners are welcome. The meeting, held at the Holiday Inn at I-75 and Hwy. 90, will begin at 8:00 am. The $25 fee includes lunch and handouts. Call 1-800-332-3111 to register or call Pat Straka at 1-803-871-5662 for more information.

* The Suwannee Co. C E S, plans to hold a landowner workshop on Thurs., May 9 at its offices in Live Oak. It will be geared to people who are looking for a general introduction to pine plantation management, including discussion of fertilization and pine straw harvest. It will be an afternoon and evening session, with supper. Contact:

Jimmy Shepherd
Suwannee County Extension Office
1302 SW 11th St.
Live Oak, FL 32060
(904) 362-2771

* Tall Timbers Longleaf Pine Seminars:

May 16 at Bristol (Appalachicola National Forest) and May 30 at Umatilla (Ocala National Forest). Each session will go from 8:30am to 4:30pm, with classroom presentations in the morning and an afternoon field trip. The fee is $40, which includes lunch and two publications. Call Tall Timbers for more information: (904) 893-4153.

Stumpage Prices 1995, 4 th Quarter
(from Timber Mart-South)

Product                 Region                Average Range           $/Ton     
Pine Pulpwood
($/Std. Cord)
$ 37
$ 34
$ 35
$ 29-44
$ 29-38

($/Std. Cord)
$ 65
$ 64
$ 64
$ 54-76
$ 54-73

Pine Sawtimber
($/MBF Scrib.)

Oak Sawtimber
($/MBF Doyle)
$ 79
$ 70-88
$ 98-181

Mixed Hardwood
($/MBF Doyle)
$ 94
$ 83-105

Pine Plylogs
($/MBF Scrib.)

Power Poles
($/MBF Scrib.)

Hardwood Pulp
($/Std. Cord)
$ 14
$ 18
$ 16
$ 9-20
$ 13-22

$ 6

Reminder: When sharing this price information with others, please include the following cautionary remarks. This information is based on sales in Oct-Dec., 1995; since then, general market conditions may have changed significantly. Also, prices vary depending on size of tract, access, amount and quality of timber, other stand conditions, and distance to mills. For example, small tracts, particular those in and around urban areas, tend to bring lower prices.

[TOP]      [Back to FFS Newsletter Homepage]

A University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service and Florida Division of Forestry joint project:

Paul Campbell (editor), School of Forest Resources & Conservation, UF, P.O. Box 110420, Gainesville, FL  32611-0420  Tel:  (352) 846-0898
Alan Long (co-editor), School of Forest Resources & Conservation, UF
Charles Marcus (co-editor), Florida Division of Forestry, 3125 Conner Blvd, Tallahassee, FL  32699-1650