AFR September 2014 Letters

AFR: With reference to July 2014 AFR, good issue. More on “micro-producers” and sawmills would be encouraging to us who labor, unknown, in the woods. The article titled “To thin or not to thin” makes the point towards the end that “most of what we are thinning is crap.” That’s true of both what we remove and what we’re forced to leave behind. 

    Our woodlot still has a preponderance of Balsam fir, though much less than previous to our first five-year plan. What I try to explain to people is that we can’t be after the next generation or harvest, but the one after that. If I took out all the fir in some areas, the planted hemlock wouldn’t make it very well. So we thin a little, plant, wait 15 years, and then thin the fir outta there. Same with the naturally occurring Red spruce; I have to leave some fir for “communal support” (windstorms, etc.), otherwise we’d have a mess later. Woodlots are long-term; 100 years is not too far to look, in my opinion. It’s expensive, sure. The returns are, frankly, minimal. And it’s hard to scratch out a living. Real hard.

    As far as leaving the tangle of an untended forest, I think that’s wishful thinking. My neighbors do nothing on their lot, and I live in trepidation of a fire that would be unreachable, literally, from anywhere but the air. Disease, windfall, and stem densities exceeding six per square foot at the moment. Those trees will die off, leaving high, thin, whippy stems with tops prone to wind damage. 

    No, thinning, in my opinion, provides a better environment for healthy forest stands. It provides the owner with the opportunity to understand his woodlot, as well as opportunities to involve the whole family. I tend to leave the best and take the rest, and I think our woodlot shows it: good Red spruce and Yellow birch mixed stands, dead trees for wildlife, and wood for firewood and the mill (Yellow birch, acacia, and others). 

    As far as your crumbling greenhouse you mention at the back of the mag, I’d suggest species has more to do with it than growth rate, though I do agree that trees subject to greater competition and physical stresses (wind, say) may make better wood.

    Good issue. Honestly, better than some I’ve seen. Congrats.

Simon Krasemann 
St. Margarets Bay, N.S.

(Thanks for your feedback, Simon, and for your thoughts on thinning. That’s a debate that may never be resolved, though it warrants further analysis and discussion. So much depends on how degraded the stand is to begin with, the quality of regen, the proximity of good seed sources, and how long we’re willing to wait to bring about the desired transformation. But I wholeheartedly agree about the value of becoming more familiar with our forests by engaging in tending practices that will yield some wood. Incidentally, your reference to “acacia” is curious. I’m told this is a term for locally naturalized Black locust. Might be a topic to explore in a future issue of the magazine.  DL)