Unmanaged Older Woodlots   Mike Leonard
  Mar 28, 2003 10:51 PST 

In the northeast, as everyone knows, old growth forests are quite rare. In my travels and in my work there are other types of rare forests which I will call Unmanaged Older Woodlots. These forests are biologically young at 60 - 100 years of age. Almost all other private forest land has been cut over at one time or another. An example of this is in a study that Harvard Forest did on Forest Cutting Plans. At one conference I attended, Dr. Foster put up a map of northern Worcester County and then put an overlay on that showed areas that had a Forest Cutting Plan done in the last 10-15 years I believe. There were hardly any areas that weren't treated in some way in this short time span! Dr. Foster mentioned that the impact of all this cutting is significant. Unfortunately, he did not mention the fact that since up to 80% of all Forest Cutting Plans are high grade cuts, diameter limit cuts, or liquidation cuts, the impact is mostly negative!
I thought about this last week as I cruised a small 15 acre lot last week in eastern Mass.(Rt.495). It was an approximately 70-80 year old oak, hardwoods forest type that hadn't been touched. Red oak is the most common overstory species while the chief associated species are black oak, white ash, some magnificent sugar maple, red maple, hickory, and white pine. It is an excellent site for growing high quality hardwoods as it is adjacent to a few streams and wetlands where red oak typically grows best. Eastern Mass of course is highly developed but there are still quite a few pockets of nice timber. The reasons why some of these areas haven't been hammered is because rich landowners aren't interested, difficulty of access, etc.

Then I cruised a 100 acre lot this week in the North Quabbin that the landowner wanted put in the Forest Stewardship Program. However, much to my chagrin, he had a local logger cut it 2 years ago. It wasn't a bad high grade, but he didn't take out any corwood! Now I get the honor of doing the follow-up cordwood sale.

The point is that it sure would be good to do it right the first time!

I met some State Legislators last night at a meeting that Mass. Audubon sponsored and I must they don't have a clue about forestry issues! So Bob it is imperative that we educate these people!

Mike Leonard, Consulting Forester
Petersham, MA