Sunset Michigan Forest Association
 Representing Forests and Forest Owners Since 1972

Privacy Statement

Michigan Forest Association
Information Center

Forest Management Assistance Management Incentives Harvesting Systems
Forestry Terms Woodlands And Wildlife Why Manage Your Woodlot?

Forest Management Assistance

Over half of Michigan's forest lands are owned by non-industrial landowners. The most effective means of meeting the goals of the landowner and assuring healthy, productive forests is through sound management practices.

An error in judgment by landowners, by not following ecologically sound approaches to forest management, can have a negative effect on natural resources for decades. Forest landowners are urged to avail themselves of the many sources of expert assistance available. The providers of forest land assistance will meet the specific identified needs and objectives of landowners in order that the landowners can best manage their properties. Private forest land management assistance providers and their services offered are:

Organization Services
Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forest management plans and technical on-site assistance and evaluation for harvesting, tree planting, wildlife practices, assists with referrals and contracts.
Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation plans, technical assistance, conservation practice designs (engineering designs), aerial photos.

County Conservation Districts Forestry and conservation plans, on-site technical assistance and property evaluations, conducts tree sales and other plant materials.
Cooperative Extension Service Informational and educational materials, technical assistance, taxation information and research data.
Farm Service Agency Provides financial cost sharing assistance for tree planting, hardwood tree improvement and erosion practices.
Consulting Foresters Provide financial and economic analysis, technical assistance, harvesting assistance, management planning, and many other services.
Industrial Foresters Many forest industries provide forest management planning assistance and timber harvesting assistance to private landowners.
American Tree Farm Program

Michigan Tree Farm Program
Provides technical assistance and information on forest industries, educational material and on-site property evaluations.
MFA Consulting Foresters List A list of Professional Consulting Foresters who are also members of the Michigan Forest Association.
Michigan Forest Resource Alliance Publishes excellent guide outlining sources of technical assistance for landowners.

Click here to view a Forestry Assistance and Landowner Services Matrix courtesy of Bill Cook, Michigan State University Extension Service

Management Incentives
Incentives available for forest landowners are generally of two types. One, to increase production and future value of forest products, and two, reduce the operating costs to establish, produce and manage forest lands over time.

Forestry Incentive Programs
Over the years, federal cost share programs have been aimed at improving forest management on private forest land. The Forestry Incentive Program (FIP) was authorized by Congress in 1973 to share the cost of tree planting and timber stand improvement with private landowners.

Your local county Farm Service Agency administers several cost sharing programs which benefit forest landowners. Eligible forestry practices include: tree planting, improving a stand of forest trees, site preparation for natural regeneration, and permanent vegetative cover on critical areas to reduce erosion. Generally, FSA will cost share 65% or more of the cost to accomplish these practices.

Establishing and Adjusting Cost Basis For Timber Land Owners
It is important as a new forest landowner you establish the original cost basis for your recent purchase. In order to determine the amount of gain or loss associated with any type of timber transaction, it is necessary to establish a "basis" or cost of timber involved. Depletion allowances or capital gains benefits cannot be calculated without first establishing such basis.

In many cases, the original basis of the timber is the purchase price of the property minus the cost of the land itself Seek professional help to determine the basis (both volume and value). The allocation between the land and timber basis should be made at time of purchase, even though trees on the property may not be merchantable. Once the original basis is established, the IRS will not allow reevaluation unless an error was made in the determination. Contact your personal tax consultant, forestry consultant or the county extension office for assistance.

Reforestation Tax Incentives
Tree planting has been a way of contributing a legacy to future generations. The, trees planted today will protect and provide for soil erosion, wildlife, air, timber, and a sense of well being for future generations. A federal tax law exists that will assist a landowner to invest in the future. Public Act 96-451 is a reforestation incentive that will benefit small and medium sized landowners.

This law permits up to $10,000 of capitalized reforestation costs each year to be eligible for a 10% investment tax credit (subtracted from taxes owed) and a seven year amortization (subtracted from gross income to compute adjusted gross income). This tax incentive can be used even if you do not itemize deductions for tax purposes. For further information contact your local county extension office.

Commercial Forest Act
Michigan has a specific tax incentive for forest landowners who are interested in long term forest management for future timber harvest and investment. Known as the Commercial Forest Act (Public Act 94, 1925) the Act applies only to forest land used for growing commercial forest crops on 40 contiguous acres or more.

Land under the Act is removed from the general property tax roll. The landowner pays an annual reduced specific tax per acre to the township. The State of Michigan annually pays the county a specific amount per acre listed. Land listed under the Act must be open to public hunting and fishing, be managed for the continuous production of timber crops and not be used or obligated for commercial purposes other than the production of timber. For other provisions and information contact your local Department of Natural Resources Office.

Harvesting Systems

Silviculture is the art of producing and tending a forest. One of the ingredients in tending the forest includes the harvest of trees. There are four main methods of harvesting: (1) Clearcutting; (2) Seed-tree; (3) Shelterwood; (4) Selection. Clearcutting and selection represent the two extremes.

Clearcutting Method

An area of the forest is marked for harvesting and every tree, regardless of size and species, is removed. Clearcutting is used when the forest to be established consists of species which will not live under shade. It is also used where the present forest consists totally of trees which are mature or overmature. It may also be applied where the expense of other methods of cutting would prevent their use.

Clearcutting in Michigan is most commonly used with stands of jack and Norway (red) pine and aspen. These are all trees which cannot reproduce or grow well under shade. They also are species which grow well as even-aged stands (all about the same age or age class).

Clearcutting is also used with those species which can reproduce in nature only after fire or some other disturbance. In the Lake States, these species include many pines, spruces, and Michigan's most predominate timber-type, aspen-birch.

In the new forest, we may expect the clearcut area to be naturally reseeded from standing trees in the surrounding forest. We may artificially spread seed on the harvested area, or we may plant the area with trees of desired species which were produced in a nursery. With aspen, we expect the suckering from stumps and roots of the cut trees to provide the future forest.

Clearcutting with proper regeneration is a necessary method of harvesting the forest. Again with aspen, it provides excellent habitat for wildlife such as deer, moose, and ruffed grouse.

There are some drawbacks to clearcutting. For several years the area may be unsightly. Also, if the cutting area is on a steep hillside and improper techniques are used in the harvesting job, excessive soil erosion may occur. This is more a problem in hilly country with the main erosion problems found in conjunction with road building.

Clearcutting is a very proper method of harvesting. It has occurred in nature over millions of years since trees first grew on the land. It has been used by man in Europe for centuries without loss of soil nutrients or degradation of the land. It was used by the Native Americans, through the setting of wildfires, for thousands of years before the white man, farmer/logger, came to this continent. It will be used in the future if we are to provide those essentials of timber and fiber for human welfare.

Seed-Tree Method

In this method, certain trees are left in the harvested area, either singly or in groups, to furnish seed which will fall on the cut area, germinate, and grow to become 'a future forest. Once the new forest is established the seed trees may be harvested. This system is more common in the southern and western forests of the United States.

The seed-tree method is generally applied with species which do not tolerate much shade. Since natural seed source is from the standing trees in the cut area, it is not necessary to depend on adjacent trees to the cut over area for natural seeding, thus the area cut may be larger than in the clearcutting method.

One of the main disadvantages in this system is the possibility of loss of the seed trees by wind, fire, or insect attack before they produce seed. Aesthetically, there is little difference between the clearcutting and seed-tree methods.

Shelterwood Method

In this method, portions of the forest stands are removed gradually over the latter part of the rotation period. As the name of the method implies, the trees not cut serve to shelter the new crop of trees which starts to grow in the area where trees were removed. So a new crop of trees is started before the mature trees have all been removed.

Obviously, the intensity of shelter or protection of the new trees can be varied by cutting many or few of the mature trees. Thus, the system provides for a considerable range of tree removal, similar to heavy thinning: the best trees are left standing as a shelter while the poorest trees are removed.

This method can be used with even-or uneven-aged stands. It is generally done over the last one-fifth of the rotation age. For example, when growing white pine on a 100-year rotation age (that length of time from the germination of the seedlings to the final harvest), shelterwood cutting might begin at age 80 and the final cut would be at age 100.

Several factors must be considered in this method. First, the new crop must be shade tolerant enough to survive and grow normally. Second, the trees which are left should not be subject to wind throw. Third, the standing trees must not be susceptible to damage in the removal of the partial cuttings; and fourth, the cost of logging may be more expensive than on the clearcutting or seed-tree methods.

There are many variations of the shelterwood system, generally classified under: (1) Uniform method - harvesting throughout the entire stand; (2) Group method groups of trees are cut and removed, or (3) Strip method strips of trees are removed.

Because of the economics of harvesting, the shelterwood method has not been utilized as much as may be desirable. This method is preferred from an aesthetic standpoint to the clearcut or seedtree method. It is especially adaptable to white pine and northern hardwoods; it cannot be used with jack pine or aspen; and it may have some potential with Norway (red) pine.

Selection Method

As the name implies, the individual tree is considered and selected or left in this method. It is primarily employed with northern hardwoods and in stands where single or groups of conifers, such as white pine, are found. The selection method is aimed at retaining an uneven-aged composition within the forest. Over-mature, damaged, or poor quality trees are removed first.

Selection cutting can proceed throughout the life of the stand since there are older, middle-aged, and very young trees in the unevenaged stand. This method depends on the ability of new trees to reproduce and grow without hinderance from shading.

Generally, natural reproduction is expected but planting is possible. There are a number of factors to consider in using the selection method, several of which were discussed with the shelterwood method. Tolerance of shade, ability to reproduce, wind-firmness, damage from logging, and economics are the most important. This system is most widely used in Michigan in the northern hardwood types.

Woodlands and Wildlife

Woodlands are remarkable resources capable of being managed for a wide variety of uses and purposes. Proper timber management will enhance a woodlands suitability for many forms of wildlife. Slight changes in management can make a considerable difference in the abundance and quality of wildlife habitat available on one's land. Woodland owners interested in increasing the number and species of wildlife for both hunting and wildlife observation will discover an increase in wildlife as they increase the diversity of vegetation on their land.

Wildlife species have three basic needs - food, water and cover which the landowner can provide or enhance through wildlife management techniques. Food and cover are usually most critical. Woodlots with an abundance of herbaceous plants on the ground, shrubs, and trees of different heights, sizes and species, will provide food and cover for wildlife.

Over-crowded and overgrown tree stands block out the sun and inhibit growth of ground cover and forage that wildlife need for food and cover. Forest management activities such as thinning, weeding out of undesirable trees and clear cutting (for certain species like aspen) allow the woodland to regenerate and produce plants that animals and birds can use. Cutting will break up single layer stands and allow more sunlight to reach the forest floor. The abundant sprouts and seedlings after harvests increase food and cover for game species, such as deer, grouse, woodcock, rabbits and many nongame species, such as songbirds.

Understanding the necessities of wildlife and careful planning for an animal's "habitat", the local environment in which it lives, is important to a successful land ethic. Different wildlife species have different habitat requirements, which are supplied by certain vegetative characteristics and other features of the environment.

Other habitat features should be considered when harvesting and planning wildlife treatments. Let's look at some of these habitats and their features.

HERBACEOUS OPENINGS- Herbaceous openings are areas where the ground is covered with a mixture of grasses and other herbaceous (non-woody) plants and where few or no trees are present. These openings are particularly important to woodland wildlife for nesting and rearing their young. They provide food in the form of herbs, grasses, and insects eaten by a variety of birds and mammals.

Whitetail deer and rabbits feed on grasses and legumes in openings, broods of ruffed grouse and turkeys feed on insects, and adult turkeys feed on grasses or berries. The dense vegetation provides nesting and escape cover for many other woodland wildlife and places for raptors to hunt prey. Roadways and trails with trees cut back along the edges make excellent dual-purpose openings. To maintain these openings, the regeneration of woody plants must be controlled by periodic cutting.

MAST TREES - Some trees produce mast, a general term for wild nuts and fruit. Fruit from oak, beech, and cherry trees is especially valuable for squirrels, turkeys, ruffed grouse, and whitetail deer. Trees start to produce mast when they are about 10 inches in diameter. Mast trees of mixed species should be maintained in woodlands to meet the food needs of these wildlife.

Selective cutting can provide firewood and timber, while at the same time sparing mast trees, den trees, and snags for use by wildlife in your woodland. Crop trees may be selectively cut -- trees that are valuable for timber and/or smaller trees showing poor growth and form (cull trees) for firewood.

SNAG AND DEN TREES - Snag and dead trees provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for wildlife. Raccoons, squirrels, and birds such as woodpeckers, screech owls, bluebirds, and house wrens nest in hollow trunks or limbs of snags. Woodpeckers and other birds feed on insects found within decaying portions of these trees. Dens can be found in mature trees of longer-lived species, such as oaks and beech, which have hollow trunks or limbs that provide cavities for nesting. Unlike snags, den trees are still alive and often produce considerable amounts of food.

EDGES - An edge has a blend of different vegetative conditions and is usually richer in wildlife than the surrounding plant communities. As the plants mingle along the edge, so do the wildlife species common to each adjacent plant community. Other wildlife may be unique to the edge. Edges provide both food and cover for wildlife.

DIVERSITY - A diversity of vegetation on your land will support the greatest variety of wildlife, particularly songbirds. The various features described in this brochure should be well mixed to make access between them easy for animals. A good mix of these key wildlife features and vegetative types in your woodland will improve both the wildlife habitat and the crop of firewood, pulpwood or timber.

SETTING WILDLIFE OBJECTIVES FOR YOUR LAND- Careful planning and priority setting for your land will help your management efforts bring the results you desire. You will need to decide which wildlife species are of greatest interest to you so you can plan forestry practices to favor them. If wildlife interests are secondary to your forest products needs, you can plan your woodland management to have the greatest benefit to wildlife.

  • state foresters,
  • private consulting foresters,
  • state wildlife biologists,
  • local Soil Conservation Service (SCS) office,
  • local Farm Service Agency (formerly ASCS),
  • local citizens' organizations such as game clubs or birding clubs,
  • county Cooperative Extension Service offices.

Forestry Terms for the Landowner

Allowable Cut - The volume of wood or the amount of product which can be cut, under a particular management plan, during a given period of time.

Basal Area - (a) Of a tree: the cross-sectional area (in square feet) of the trunk at breast height (b) Of an acre of forest: the sum of basal areas of the individual trees on the acre.

Clearcut - A harvesting technique which removes all the trees (regardless of size) of an area in one operation. Clearcutting is most often used with species like aspen which require full sunlight to reproduce and grow well. Produces an even-aged forest stand.

Commercial Cut - A cut which yields a net income (receipts for sale of products exceed the cost of the cutting).

Conifer - A tree belonging to the order Coniferales which is usually evergreen, cone bearing and with needles, awl or scalelike leaves such as pine, spruces, firs and cedars; often referred to as "softwoods."

Cord - A stack of logs containing 128 cubic feet. Normal dimensions of a standard cord are 4 feet x 4 feet x 8 feet. Michigan pulpwood cords are 4 feet x 4 feet x 100 inches to take advantage of truck width.

Crop Tree - A tree identified to be grown to maturity and which is not removed from the forest before the final harvest cut. Usually selected on the basis of its location with respect to other trees and its quality.

Cutting cycle - The planned time interval between major harvesting operations in the same stand. The term is usually applied to uneven-aged stands.

DBH - The diameter of the tree at breast height (defined as 4 1/2 feet above the ground).

Deciduous Tree - A tree which loses all of its leaves at some time during the year.

Even-aged Forest - A forest in which all of the trees present are essentially the same age (within 10 to 20 years).

Even-aged Forest Management - Management of a forest involving the periodic harvest of all of the trees on part of the forest at one time in several cuttings over a short period of time to produce stands containing trees all the same or nearly the same age.

Forest Type - A group of tree species which, because of their environmental requirements and tolerances, are repeatedly found growing together.

Forestry - The science, art and practice of managing for human benefit trees and forests and their associated resources.

Habitat - The local environment in which a plant or animal lives.

Harvest - (a) In general use, the removal of all or portions of the trees on an area. (b) Technical Definition: A harvest cut is the removal of trees on an area to 1) obtain income, 2) develop the environment necessary to regenerate the forest, or 3) to achieve some special objectives such as the development of special wildlife habitat needs (contrast with intermediate cuttings).

Hardwood - A term used to describe broadleaf, usually deciduous, trees such as oaks, maples, ashes, elms, etc. It does not necessarily refer to the hardness of the wood.

Intermediate Cut - The removal of immature trees from the forest sometime between establishment and major harvest with the primary objective of improving the quality of the remaining forest stand. Contrast with harvest cut.

Mature Tree - A tree that has reached the desired size or age for its intended use. Size or age will vary considerably depending on the species and intended use.

Multiple Use - The management of forest land (or any other land) for more than one purpose.

Non-Commercial Cutting- A cutting which does not yield a net income, usually because the trees cut are too small, poor quality or not marketable.

Pulpwood - Wood cut primarily to be converted into wood pulp for the manufacture of paper, fiberboard or other wood fiber products.

Reforestation - Re-establishing a forest on an area where forest vegetation has been removed.

Release Cutting - A cutting operation carried out to release young trees (seedlings or saplings) from competition with other trees of the same size (termed a clean) or larger and over-topping trees (termed a liberation cut).

Rotation - The number of years required to establish and grow trees to a specified size, product or condition of maturity.

Salvage Cut - The harvesting of trees that have been killed or are in danger of being killed (by insects, disease or the environment) to save their economic value.

Sanitation Cut - The harvesting or destruction of trees infected or highly susceptible to insects or disease to protect the rest of the forest stand.

Selection - A procedure for harvesting timber in which individual trees or small groups of trees are harvested at periodic intervals (usually 8-15 years) based on their physical condition or degree of maturity. Produces an uneven-aged stand.

Shelterwood Harvest Cutting - A harvest cutting in which the trees on the harvest area are removed in a series of two or more cuttings to allow the establishment and early growth of the new seedlings under the partial shade and protection of the older trees. Produces a. even-aged forest.

Site - (a) Reference to a specific location. (b) An area evaluated as to its capacity to produce a particular forest or other vegetation based on the combination of biological, climatic and soil factors present.

Site Index - An expression of forest site quality based on the height of the dominant trees at a specified age (usually 50 years in the eastern U.S.).

Stocking - An indication of the number of trees present in a forest stand. Often, stocking level is compared to the desirable number of trees for best growth and management, such as partially-stocked, well-stocked or overstocked.

Stumpage - The value of a tree or groups of trees as they stand in the woods uncut (on-the-stump).

Sustained Yield -Management of forest land to produce a relatively constant amount of timber and/or revenue.

TSI - Timber Stand Improvement - A practice in which the quality of residual forest stand is improved by removing the less desirable trees, vines and occasionally, large shrubs to achieve the desired stocking of the best quality trees.

Thinning - Cutting in an immature forest stand to reduce the tree density and concentrate the site productivity on fewer, higher quality trees resulting in increased growth and larger trees.

Tolerance - The capacity of a tree to develop and grow in the shade of, and in competition with, other trees.

Uneven-aged or All-aged Forest - A forest in which there are many ages of trees present (technically, more than 2 age classes) and in which there are considerable differences in the ages of the trees present. This is in contrast to an "even-aged" forest.

Uneven-aged or All-aged Forest Management - Management of a forest involving the periodic removal of individual trees from a stand while preserving its natural appearance.

Why Manage Your Woodlot?

Forests are a major feature of the Michigan landscape. Covering more than 52 percent of the state, nearly 19 million acres of forest land contribute directly to Michigan's economy through timber production and forest products industries. In addition, forests provide numerous recreational, wildlife, aesthetic and environmental benefits. Only four other states can boast of more acres of commercial forest land than Michigan.

Michigan's forests are diverse in both type and ownership. At least nine major forest types are present. These produce a variety of products, including Christmas trees, sawlogs for lumber, pulpwood for paper, and raw materials for post, piling and log home industries.

Ownership of Michigan forest land is similarly varied. Public forest holdings, including three national forests and the nation's largest state forest system, account for 6.5 million acres. Industry owns nearly 2.0 million acres; and some 10.5 million acres are in private ownership, representing approximately 55 percent of the total area. These private parcels of forest land are generally less than 100 acres and often are associated with farms or recreational properties.

The productivity of Michigan's forests varies considerably with ownership. Both publicly- and industrially-owned forests are generally well managed and produce at or near their potential. However, the majority of small privately-owned forests are poorly managed.

Most are producing at one-half or less of their potential, even though most private forests are on good soils and possess the capacity to produce significantly greater yields.

In the past, there had been little concern with increasing the productivity of private forests because supplies of forest products were plentiful and forest lands abundant. This is no longer the case.

The demand for wood products is projected to sharply increase. Thus, it is necessary to increase the productivity of privately owned forest lands. To accomplish this, private forest land owners must manage their land more efficiently.

Why Woodlot Management?
Management is designed to make each acre of forest produce its maximum. This means that an adequate number of trees of good form and quality are spaced to maintain maidmum growth rates while using all available growing space. Management is also concerned with regenerating the stand to replace harvested trees. Regeneration is essential if the land-owner is to realize the woodlot's potential.

Most private forest landowners do not practice good woodlot management for a variety of reasons. These include failure to view the forest as a manageable resource, belief that leaving a forest alone will maximize its benefits, ignorance of necessary treatments and their applications, and a general mistrust of loggers and timber harvesting procedures. Because of past experiences with indiscriminate logging, some landowners improperly associate forest management with harvesting only large trees. Hence, many forest landowners are reluctant to plan any new management activity. Still others are not aware of the potential for producing a forest crop on a continuing basis.

In the past, most woodlots were not managed for renewable crops; instead, they were periodically logged with little or no concern for improving the condition of the remaining stand. Usually only the choicest trees were removed, leaving defective and otherwise low value trees to occupy an increasingly larger portion of the woodlot. In addition, many farm woodlots have been grazed by livestock. Fortunately, many farmers have discontinued this practice.

Woodlots that have been grazed typically contain much low-grade, defective material. Few desirable, merchantable trees are present, although desirable species may be reproduced where grazing has been discontinued. Consequently, a large number of potentially high quality, small diameter stems may be present.

In northern Michigan, many second-growth woodlots have developed where the original forest has been harvested, or on land once cleared for agriculture and subsequently abandoned. These stands are generally even-aged with uniform-sized trees. Most are overstocked and need an improvement/thinning cut to maintain rapid growth rates. Thinning such stands will also encourage additional reproduction, thereby establishing a multiple-aged stand.

Woodlot Management, What is it?
Woodlot management is the care and maintenance of a forest stand which encourages continuing yields of products and services in a mix which the landowner desires.

A timber stand improvement cut is the most immediate need in most hardwood forest stands. Deformed, diseased, damaged or otherwise defective trees will not produce high-value timber products. In addition, such trees compete with more desirable trees for available moisture, nutrients and growing space. Their presence not only reduces the growth of desirable trees, but often prevents the establishment of better trees within the stand. A timber stand improvement cut will remove these generally undesirable and low-value trees. Such trees are more suitable for firewood, since their value for other commercial products is low.

Along with a timber stand improvement cut, most woodlots also require thinning to obtain optimum tree spacing. The amount of thinning necessary will vary depending on the size and distribution of the trees in the stand. In a properly thinned stand, growth of remaining trees may double or triple. As trees increase in size, their growing space requirements likewise increase, making periodic thinnings necessary. Later thinnings and harvest cuts will yield higher quality products and, more importantly, provide openings in the stand for the establishment of new trees. Thus, with some harvesting occurring every few years, the woodlot can be managed to produce continuing crops.

Previously poorly-managed forest stands can be managed to produce at or near their potential. The proper timing and application of timber stand improvement, thinning and harvesting operations gradually will improve the quality of a woodlot and help maintain its productivity. In addition to obtaining forest products through proper management, forest landowners will also gain satisfaction from being good stewards of their land.