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Managing woodlands: Extension forester shares planning tips

Trees are removed on a property in Indiana.
Trees are removed on a property in Indiana.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Managing woodlands is a task on the to-do list of many landowners. It involves defining one’s goals for a property and developing a plan of action to meet those goals.

Managing woodlands boils down to three main actions: restoration, conservation and cultivation, said Lenny Farlee, Purdue Extension forester, during a webinar.

“We’re doing restoration work to take care of some of the past problems we’ve had on properties,” he explained. “We’re doing conservation work to maintain those benefits to wildlife.

“And then we’re actually doing some cultivation work to encourage certain benefits that we’re strongly interested in. That’s what’s behind this idea of forest management. We do this because of, in many cases, that past history of rough use.”

Forests may have a history of unmanaged grazing, high grade tree harvesting, invasive species, high numbers of grapevines, or overcrowding.

Reasons to manage forests include:

• Natural processes have been disrupted by past or present activities or conditions.

• Productivity and health can be enhanced.

• Specific benefits and products of interest can be actively encouraged.

• To maintain diversity of ages and types of forest across the landscape.

• To retain plant and wildlife communities.

Woodland management is primarily about managing space and light.

This is done by controlling undesirable plants, thinning trees where density is high and harvesting trees to manage light or space and capture value.

By creating openings you can manage the canopy density to favor diverse tree species regeneration and habitat types, Farlee said.

“These systems are complex, and we don’t always get the exact results we think we’re going to get,” he said. “Every situation is a little different.”

Working with a professional forester is a good starting point. Visit www.findindianaforester.org for more information.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture may help you with your woodland management costs, Farlee said.

Cost sharing may be available for invasive species control, pruning, planting, erosion control and other reasons. Contact your Natural Resources Conservation Service or Soil and Water Conservation District office to learn more.

For more information about managing woodlands, visit www.in.gov/dnr/forestry or www.purdue.edu/fnr/extension.

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