7: Forest Health

Activities: Forest Health

How these activities will help you as a woodland owner:

Learn about preventative measures and how to implement preventative measures to protect your woodlands. Then look up resources for invasive exotic species and other types of damage.

Step 1: Read the Chapter

Read the introductory section of the chapter. Build these prevention measures into your management plan:

  • Match the tree species to the sites and conditions where they are likely to grow best.
  • Maintain tree species diversity by either mixing tree species within a stand or growing several different species in pure stands.
  • Regulate stand density to encourage fast growth while maintaining relatively full stocking.
  • Use pest-resistant planting stock when available.
  • Prune or thin during the winter rather than during the growing season.
  • Avoid wounding trees when operating heavy equipment or logging in the woodland.

Step 2: Inspect your Woodlands

Inspect your woodland at the beginning and end of each growing season and whenever a fire, windstorm, ice storm, flooding, prolonged drought, or other such event may have caused damage. If you find significant damage to high quality trees or groups of trees, match that damage to descriptions you find in online and print resources to determine its cause and potential impact on your woodland.

Step 3: Prevent Fire Damage

Read the section on Fire Damage. Build these fire prevention measures into your management plan and implement them:

Manage Forest:

  • Thin and prune conifer stands to prevent them from building fuel ladders of low limbs and dead wood that permit a surface fire to climb into the tree crowns.
  • After timber harvests, lop slash so that it lies close to the ground and decays quickly. You also can pile slash and burn it when there is snow cover.
  • Create buffer strips of hardwoods around conifer stands for added protection. Hardwood stands are less flammable than conifer stands.
  • Place fire prevention and suppression clauses in logging contracts. Refer to the sample contract (Adobe PDF icon PDF; 0.2 MB), page 112, item 13 from Chapter 8 Marketing Timber.
  • Plan controlled burns with advice from a natural resource professional with experience planning such burns. A controlled burn may be appropriate to reduce fuel loads, create an open understory for wildlife habitat, reduce weed and shrub competition for desirable trees, eliminate woody material that interferes with tree planting, or eliminate woody material that may harbor insect or disease pests.

Improve Access:

  • Clear firebreaks around conifer stands. A firebreak might consist of a rough bulldozed road with a bare mineral soil surface that can be driven by a four-wheel drive fire truck. Although such a firebreak may stop a surface fire, it is more likely to be a good starting place for a fire suppression crew to build a fire line.
  • Consider establishing a trail or road system within a woodland that is larger than 20 acres to provide fire fighting access to all areas and break it into smaller, more defensible units. Make sure the roads and trails are wide enough for fire fighting vehicles.
  • Provide access for fire suppression vehicles to a stream or lake or create a pond if you have no natural water source.

Cooperate with Neighbors:

  • Cooperate with adjacent landowners in designing and establishing fire prevention measures, such as firebreaks, access roads, and buffer strips of hardwoods around conifer stands.

Step 4: Develop an Invasive Plant Management Plan

Inspect your woodland and observe which invasive plants are on your property. Refer to your state’s department of natural resources, department of agriculture or university extension websites for information about these invasive species and their control methods.

Develop an management plan by listing the steps you can take to control the invasive plant species. How long will this management take… one month, one year, ten years? Which species do you hope will re-establish in the absence of any invasive plants?



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Woodland Stewardship: A Practical Guide for Midwestern Landowners, 3rd Edition Copyright © 2019 by University of Minnesota Extension is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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