In the early 1900s the Ford Company sent an early film camera crew to the Adirondacks to record the life and work of the region’s loggers. The footage they shot shows the logging camps, the icing of roadways for skidding, the interior of a sawmill, loading and hauling logs, and more.
The original footage is held in the National Archives, but I’ve posted a short clip of a group of river drivers working a small log jam at our YouTube page along with a clip form the PBS documentary The Adirondacks that shows similar color footage. Check it out here.
Deciding whether to log or not and how is complicated by a number of factors according to Master Forest Owner Program Director Gary Goff and Cornell Cooperative Extension Forester Peter Smallidge. Most private forest land in New York State will eventually be logged and sold for saw timber; the question is when and how. Goff and Smallidge reviewed the details at the 2009 Master Forest Owner Training.
Stumpage is the price offered by a logger for a standing tree. DEC issues Stumpage Price Reports twice a year that can serve as a guide (if you know what you’re looking at) for landowners wondering how much their timber is worth. A basic rule of thumb: A 20-inch diameter tree at breast height (dbh) generally contains two 16-foot merchantable logs. The same tree, cut down to four inch pieces, will yield about one cord of firewood (a cord is 4-feet tall, 8-feet long, and 4-feet wide).
Timber quality is the most important factor affecting the value of standing timber, but there are a number of other factors, including things like the volume per acre, the terrain, market demand, time of year, costs of harvesting, size, species, insurance, etc.
Another rule of thumb: a 12-14 inch tree can be graded to a 2-3 grade; 16 inches, 2 grade; 18-20 inches, 2-1 grade; 24-28, 1 grade. The bottom 16 feet on a tree holds two-thirds of the value of tree.
Other impacts on the decision to log include the rate of inflation, potential damage, rate of growth, market trends, changes in tax law, other goals and owner objectives (trails, wildlife improvement, etc.), social license (do I care what my neighbors think?), municipal ordinances (town, county, APA, DEC, etc.), supervision (do I need a forester?), state of stand (maintaining biodiversity and good regeneration, in other words, a stewardship plan).
Expenses to consider when logging include fixed costs like your mortgage, taxes, and insurance and variable costs like surveys, inventory, management plan, timber stand improvement, stand access improvement, and timber sale expenses. The bottom line is: management matters and can provide as much as twice the value.
Always have a contract between logger, forester, and landowner. Contracts should include who is selling what to whom and for how much, when, where, and with what restrictions. Payment options could include up-front stumpage, pay as you cut (certain dollar per thousand board feet), roadside (you haul ’em to the landing), or percentages. Contracts could also include best management practices, penalties for damaging residual stands, cutting of non-merchantable trees, a performance bond, non-transferability.
i won’t cover it here, because it’s complicated and really requires a forester, but those thinking about logging should understand what high-grading is and how to avoid it (of course the best way is to hire a professional forester).
Land owners should visit www.forestconnect.com for more about saw timer sales (and a lot more), and then begin thinking about a forest management plan.
Water quality best management practices are an important component for logging operations. Potential problems include sedimentation of streams and other water bodies, thermal pollution (damage by exposing stream beds to full sun for example), and biogeochemical changes (changes in soil chemistry). Forester Peter Smallidge notes that “cutting trees does not cause erosion, disturbing soil causes erosion.” Here are a few things to keep in mind: Logging roads and skid trails should follow contours in the land.
Disturb as little soil as possible, especially along streams and stream beds. Skid in winter.
Deal with small amounts of slow moving water such a rain events by using waterbars, sediment barriers, and culverts.
Avoid streams whenever possible. Always cross streams at right angles.
Well, I’ve heard of the technique, but like most folks who’ve felled trees I’ve been doing it more dangerously than necessary. New York State Extension Forester Peter Smallidge educates on the wedge method that puts the tree right where you want it without chasing it down with a back cut. He cut his notch, then used the plunge method to leave all but the hinge. A couple of wedges are placed in the backcut – one just as a safety measure to be sure your saw doesn’t get pinched – and the other to safely and slowly drop the tree. The top should generally never move (no rattling top and falling branches) until you drive the wedge home. Then it falls right on the mark. Take the “game of logging” training Smallidge gives to learn to do it right. He also runs forestconnect.com, Cornell Cooperative Extension site for all things forestry that includes plenty of resources for forest owners, including regular webinars.
Just got back from the Tupper Lake Hardwood mill, the only hardwood mill left in the the Adirondack Park. Our guide, a sixth generation Canadian mill worker, told us that the company is facing tough economic times. Of their three mills only two are currently operating and the Tupper mill is only running one shift a day (16 employees).
The mill sells almost everything that comes onto the lot. Chips are sent to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga for fine-grade paper, the sawdust is sold for bedding and other specialized uses. The worst grade of lumber (3 Common) goes into pallets and the better grades are shipped mostly to Europe and Asia (55%) and around the United States (after being trucked to Montreal to be kiln dried). The mill produces about 9 million board feet a year when running at full capacity, but is currently running at half that. The logs are all supplied by about 60 suppliers from within about 50 miles of the mill; minimum log size is 9 inches.
Quite a place – we also took the time to try out some tree scaling and grading.
We’re about to start tree identification. I’ll try to post again after dinner.
I’ll be reporting regularly this week beginning Wednesday evening from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s New York Master Forest Owner (MFO) training at SUNY ESF Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. The program, which is being held in the Adirondacks for the first time, combines classroom and field experience in general forestry. My goal is to simply learn a little more about the variety of local forestry issues we cover here at the Alamanack. Forest ecology, wildlife management, water quality issues, timber harvesting and management, invasive species, sugar bush management, and more are all on the schedule. The MFO website explains why the program is valuable:
Over 14 million acres of woodland in NY State are privately owned by approximately 500,000 nonindustrial forest owners. That’s over 3/4 of New York’s total forest area! It is estimated that less than 1/4 of the state’s private forest holdings are purposefully managed despite the educational programs and technical services available. In order to reap the benefits of this vital resource, sound stewardship is necessary. Stewardship objectives involve management practices that ensure ecologically sound forest productivity. Forests represent a precious commodity that, if wisely managed, can generate a variety of economic, ecological, and aesthetic values to forest owners and their communities, generation after generation.
I’ll regularly report my experiences and some of what I learn here at the Almanack, as I did with the Wild Center’s climate conference in November 2008.
You can find out more about the program and training schedule here.
Cornell Cooperative Extension is looking for small-forest owners to volunteer to meet and work with their neighbors through the New York Master Forest Owner (MFO) Volunteer Program. The MFO program is entering its 19th year and a new volunteer training is scheduled May 13-17 at SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. Volunteers who complete the four-day workshop will join the corps of 175 certified volunteers across the state [pdf of current volunteers]. Participants can commute daily, or accommodations are available at the AEC. A $50 registration fee (upon acceptance into the program) helps defray lodging, publications, food, and equipment costs. The workshop combines classroom and outdoor field experiences on a wide variety of subjects, including tree identification, finding boundaries, forest ecology, wildlife and sawtimber management, water quality best management practices, communication techniques, timber harvesting, and invasive species identification and management.
The goal of the program is to provide private forest owners with the information and encouragement necessary to manage their forests to enhance ownership satisfaction. MFOs do not perform management activities nor give professional advice. Rather, they meet with forest owners to listen to their concerns and questions, and offer advice as to sources of assistance based on their training and personal experience.
If you are interested in obtaining an information packet and application form, send your name and address to:
CCE Warren County 377 Schroon River Road Warrensburg, NY 12885 518-623-3291 or email: [email protected]
I received this week from John Sheehan, Director of Communications for The Adirondack Council, the following interesting history and analysis of the recent Nature Conservancy sale and what it means to the history of logging in the backcountry. I’m reprinting it here in its entirety for the information of Adirondack Almanack readers:
When the ATP Group, a private investment company that handles pension funds for the Danish government, made its first major investment in the United States Monday, its purchase of 92,000 acres of commercial forestlands from The Nature Conservancy brought to an end the era of the industrial ownership of the Adirondack Park’s vast, private backcountry. » Continue Reading.
A. It started in the 1940s as a newsletter for logging camps in the Adirondacks and around the Northeast. The founder was the Rev. Frank Reed, who wrote Lumberjack Skypilot. He would include things like who’s cooking at what camp, and which camps have TV or radio. It evolved into an independent trade magazine of the Northeastern Loggers Association and today has a paid circulation of 11,000 from Minnesota to Maine and Missouri to Maryland.
Q. How are Adirondack loggers faring in this economy?
A. The forest products industry is a commodities business so it’s always been subject to large ups and downs. People in this industry are accustomed to doing other things when the woods product business goes in the tank. With that said, this is a serious recession; it’s hard to find alternatives. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced it has proposed making permanent a regulation to restrict the import, sale and transport of untreated firewood to aid in the fight against the spread of tree-killing pests and diseases. A public-comment period on DEC’s proposal runs through Feb. 9, 2009. DEC encourages interested parties to weigh in on the proposal – which can be viewed on the DEC website — at two public hearings or through written comments. » Continue Reading.
The arrival of the shiny, emerald green beetle, about 1/2 inch long and 1/8 inch wide, in the U.S. may be as serious a threat to white, green, and black ash trees as Dutch elm disease was to the American elm.
Ash trees are a common species; green and black ash grow in wet swampy areas and along streams and rivers; white ash is common in drier, upland soils. Many species of wildlife, including some waterfowl and game birds, feed on ash seeds. Ash is used as a source for hardwood timber, firewood, and for the manufacturing of baseball bats and hockey sticks. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets estimates the total economic value of New York’s white ash to be $1.9 billion dollars. » Continue Reading.
Some of the biggest news this summer has come out of the Nature Conservancy. First there was the announcement at the end of August that it will list for sale — under conservation easement — about 90,000 acres of the 161,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands it acquired in June 2007.
Now comes the news that the Conservancy has purchased Follensby Pond for $16 million. The pond was the location of the Philosopher’s Camp where Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James Stillman, Louis Agassiz, and others helped birth the Transcendentalist movement, often cited as a important precedent for the modern environmental movement. » Continue Reading.
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