As we move closer to spring, we expect the brown tones of winter to give way to the vibrant colors of spring. While it’s not always apparent when looking at cut-over forest land, in reality, it represents the rejuvenation process soon to come.
We all value trees and a forest that’s recently been thinned, clear cut, or managed through a controlled burn is not the prettiest sight. It’s only temporary and is important for the long-term health of a forest.
When a forest grows unchecked, it becomes thick and dangerous, crowding out wildlife and creating an environment ripe for fungus and disease. Worst of all, it becomes a tinderbox, susceptible to forest fires. These fires are costly, both in fire-fighting expense and in valuable resources lost.
A well-managed forest is a healthy forest. When trees are thinned or managed with a controlled burn, it creates ideal habitat for wildlife and recreation. With more room to breathe, remaining trees grow thicker and taller. Just as a garden benefits from pruning and weeding so too does a forest thrive when managed for long-term growth and sustainability.
The wood harvested through a thinning or clear-cut is used for hundreds of everyday products, fueling the economy and sustaining thousands of tree-farming families who have managed their land for generations – and hope to continue to do so indefinitely.
Even a clear-cut forest represents rejuvenation. Like “The Giving Tree,” the beloved 1964 book by Shel Silverstein that featured a tree providing recreation, apples, limbs, and its trunk to a boy as he grew into a man, a forest can provide numerous resources. Unlike The Giving Tree, which ended its life as a stump, forests are replanted and soon become vast swaths of green as saplings grow into the next generation of Giving Trees.
America’s most renewable resource continues to give, which is no surprise since the country’s vast wood basket was one of the initial attractions for English settlers 400 years ago. What might be a surprise to some is that thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than nearly 100 years ago.
These days, even clear-cut forests are not the ugly sights they once were. With the growth of the biomass industry, small limbs and stumpage that once would be burned or left on the ground to decompose now are typically chipped and sent to pellet mills, where they are packaged as a clean fuel. There is no waste, the land left behind is clear, and soon the life cycle of the forest begins anew.
That’s why a clear-cut forest is anything but unsightly, but rather a testament to what the land has given and will continue to provide.