BACKUS -- The Cass County Land Department's timber management goal is to insure regenerating healthy, high quality trees in each native timber species for future quality forests, and to get the highest return to the county when the next generation of trees is cut, said Land Commissioner Norm Moody.
He gave the county board a tour May 7 of county land where foresters monitor tree quality on timber being cut today and where they have implemented different practices for the future. Area loggers were invited to join the tour, but only one did.
Cass foresters record soil types and quality on each plot where timber is being sold today, because aspen being cut can range from mostly rotted to mostly solid wood even though all trees are the same age, Moody said. Soil quality and soil type that tree species prefer makes the difference.
By recording tree quality now, different sites will be cut in longer or shorter time spans on those sites in the future, resulting in less rotted wood the next time around, Moody said.
For better future soil quality, loggers are being encouraged to spread treetop and branch residue from today's cuttings (slash) across the logged site. As that wood rots, it returns nutrients to the soil where it grew and will feed young tress reforesting the site, Moody said.
The tour stopped at a site clear-cut in 1991. There was mossy rotted slash beneath towering new aspen and birch trees. Aspen regenerates from the live root system below the old trees. Birch regenerates from stumps of live trees, but will not re-grow from dead stumps, Moody said.
Loggers paid about $4 per cord for aspen stumpage in 1991. Today, they pay an average of $40 per cord.
While many people worry about cutting 100-year-old pine trees, Moody said those can be replanted from seedlings. For many years, pines have been replanted here. This year, Cass contracted to have 220,000 pine seedlings planted on county land.
Aspen, however, will not regenerate from its 1,000-year-old root system unless the ground where trees are located receives at least 85 percent sun. Today, there are few pure aspen stands remaining. Most grow in mixed timber stands, Moody said. That root system has been in the ground a lot longer than any pine trees, he said.
Select cutting in the past left too much shade for aspen to re-grow, he said. Today, the practice is to clear-cut or almost clear-cut aspen and birch sites to ensure enough sun will reach them, so they can regenerate, he said.
Where there is too much shade, only hazel brush comes back instead of new aspen and birch trees, said Cass forester Jerry Lamon.
Similarly, leaving only birch in select cutting will lead to the birch dying soon anyway, because that tree species is so sensitive to activity on the ground around it, Lamon said. The best way to ensure birch in the future is to cut what is standing today.
Commissioners viewed one site where birch and maple had been removed in a select cut. Oaks were left standing. Those 40- to 50-year-old oaks now will increase in size rapidly with additional sun. Moody said the oaks will grow 0.4 of an inch in diameter annually now.
Under them, aspen and birch will regenerate, because so much sun reaches the open forest floor there. In another 40 years, the 80-year-old oaks will be harvested with the new generation of aspen and birch, Moody said.
When loggers do not take all the wood from a timber sale to market, they pile what they leave near roads, but behind log piles they will market. Cass County sells the remaining wood under firewood permits to private individuals. All firewood always gets used, Moody said.
Cass manages pine plantations for a 150-year lifespan, Lamon said.
The tour stopped at a site where tornadoes destroyed the standing forest near Roosevelt Lake in 1969. The Cass Land Department planted a pine plantation on the site in 1976. Smaller trees in that stand will be selectively cut this year to give more light to the remaining larger, stronger trees.
Moody said such thinning can be done every 10 years. Log furniture makers can use the smaller diameter trees now. When the stand reaches 80 years old, trees cut over the next 70 years after that will go for log home construction and saw timber.
As more selective cutting is being done today than in the past, it requires loggers to buy smaller equipment to work between remaining trees without damaging them, Moody said.
Lamon demonstrated how foresters now use global positioning system equipment to save time and keep more accurate records of timber sales today.
He used a hand-held computerized unit to connect to satellites, which gave the exact coordinates of his location on a small screen. He then walked around an area such as what might be designated for a timber sale. When he returned to his starting point, the unit had recorded the area he walked around.
Lamon then can take the unit back to his office and connect it to his personal computer, which will print the area he walked onto an aerial photograph of the site to be logged. Moody said this gives loggers a more accurate map of the logging site than when foresters had to measure the area by hand, then draw it onto maps.
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