Timber Management

There are many different management practices that can be done during different stages of woodland development to improve a stand. A landowners objectives, the environment, and type of woodland will strongly determine the types of management practices that will be utilized.

Determine Your Objectives

The first thing you need to do is to define your objectives. A written forestry management plan can help you determine the actions necessary to reach your objectives and when to do them. A long-term management plan should be utilized by all landowners to organize your objectives and sustainably manage your forests. District foresters or other natural resource professionals can help you develop a management plan for your property.

Know Your Property and Your Timber

Before you start working on improving your property or selling your timber, you need to know your property boundaries, what kinds of trees you have, how large and healthy your trees are, how many you have, what the market conditions are, and how easy it is to access your timber. A forester can be very helpful during this process. He or she can give you an accurate inventory of your property and an approximate value of your timber. However, it is your responsibility to determine your property lines in order to avoid disagreements between you and your neighbors. You can visit your county recorder’s office or the assessor’s office in order to determine your property boundary and avoid property disputes. Marking your property boundaries will also help the loggers during the harvesting process.

Hire a Forester for Timber Harvests

Hiring a forester when your are ready to harvest your timber can help protect your property and receive the most money for your timber. Not hiring a forester to oversee your timber harvest can cause you to risk receiving a lower income for your timber sale, a reduced return from lower-quality growing stock on future sales, and a longer period between harvest. Foresters protect you and the logger during the harvesting process.

Timber Stand Improvement (TSI)

Timber stand improvement is the improvement of the health and quality of your forest. Generally, TSI focuses on increasing the amount of available sunlight and soil nutrients for the trees you want to focus on. Some techniques you can use to perform TSI are grapevine removal, thinning, crop tree release, and the removal of invasive species.

Grape Vine Removal

Though there are several native grape species in the Eastern United States, wild grapes can become issues when managing for timber. Grapevines can damage the trees by covering the leaves of the tree and reducing the growth rate of the tree or killing it. The weight of grapevines on branches can also break those branches or cause the entire tree to fall over under the weight of ice or snow. However, though grapevines can be detrimental for timber, they are beneficial for wildlife. Many birds and other wildlife species will use the grapes for food or use the vines for cover or nests. If you are interested in attracting wildlife but do not want grapevines harming your valuable timber, you can leave grapevines on some trees of lesser value and remove the grapevines from your valuable timber species. Keeping some wild grapevines on the edge of your woodlands or along streams and bodies of water can provide habitat for wildlife while keeping your valuable timber species safe.


Thinning is the removal of unwanted trees in order to open up more sunlight, nutrients, water, and space to the remaining trees. Trees will compete with each other in an overstocked forest, which can cause all of your trees to grow at a much slower rate and be more susceptible to pests and diseases as a result of stress and overcrowding. For this reason, it is beneficial to thin your trees if you are wanting to produce high quality timber within a reasonable time frame. As well as increasing the value of the remaining trees, thinning can help reduce fire hazards, generate revenue, create a more open forest, and improve habitat conditions for some wildlife species.

Crop Tree Release

Crop tree release involves the deadening of poor quality or undesirable trees adjacent to valuable crop trees. This provides more sunlight to the crown of the desired trees as well as a decrease in competition. Crop tree release allows the valuable trees to increase in vigor and diameter growth. This technique can be conducted during various stages of development depending on the specific opportunities to improve the stand conditions. Crop tree release can be used in both even- and uneven-aged stands.

Invasive Species Removal

Invasive species can out-compete or shade out desirable timber species and can damage desirable trees. They can also alter the soil structure and impact long-term forest productivity. Invasive species cost billions of dollars each year in the United States and can cost you money as well. Invasive plants threaten forest regeneration and can destroy existing native trees. It is easy for these plants to go unnoticed for a few years until they reach a critical threshold and quickly take over a site. Catching invasive species early before they overrun a site can save you a lot of money in the long run and can keep your forest ecosystem healthy. If left untouched or unnoticed, control of invasive species can be expensive. To help keep invasives from spreading or taking over your forest, it is necessary to control them before harvesting. Click on the button below to learn more about a few common invasive plants.

Timber Harvesting Methods

There are multiple harvesting methods that can be utilized. However, the type of harvesting method you use is largely based on your objectives and the type of forest you own. Read more about some of the different harvesting methods below.


Clear-cutting is a harvesting method that removes all the timber from the stand in one cutting. It is economical and efficient and allows for the planting or genetically improved trees. Some trees require full sunlight to grow, and this method can be used for those species. However, clear-cutting is not always beneficial, as it can damage or alter wildlife habitat or accelerate soil erosion. This method is typically done as a final harvest method at the end of a cutting rotation of an even-aged stand.

Selection Cutting

Select/selection cutting is the removal of timber as individual trees or groups of trees at short intervals and is a type of uneven-aged management. This technique is commonly used in Indiana as a result of the diverse, multi-aged forests in that occur in the state. This method allows different tree species of different age classes to coexist in the same forest. Selection cutting requires a lot of thought and understanding of forest systems and tree physiology, but it allows you to get a consistent and regular return on your timber.

Seed Tree Cutting

Seed Tree Cutting is similar to clear-cutting in that most trees are cut. Except with this method, a few desirable “seed” trees are left. The number of seed trees left depends on the size, species, site conditions, and seed-bearing characteristics of the tree species.

Shelterwood Cutting

Shelterwood cutting is a harvesting method that is similar to the seed tree method. However, in the shelterwood method, more seed trees are left per acre. All the seed trees are harvested once natural regeneration has occurred.

Regeneration Methods

Regeneration is the establishment or reestablishment of a forest. Regeneration activities usually occur after a timber harvest or a natural disaster such as a fire, hurricane, or insect attack. Regeneration can occur naturally or artificially through planting or direct seeding. Read more about regeneration methods below.

Natural Regeneration

Natural regeneration occurs when regeneration happens from natural seeding or stump or root sprouts. This is a low-cost method for regeneration. However, it is unpredictable and does not always work. Shelterwood, seed tree harvests, and selection cutting can be used with natural regeneration.

Artificial Regeneration

Artificial regeneration can occur using different methods. Direct seeding is the sowing of seeds which are usually treated to repel animals and insects. Seedbed conditions have to be similar to those that would promote regeneration naturally. Some site preparation of seedbeds may be necessary. Planting is another artificial regeneration method. Planting provides a higher degree of seedling survival than direct seeding. It also provides more control over tree spacing and still allows the use of genetically improved seedlings. However, planting is fairly expensive when compared to direct seeding or natural regeneration methods.

Certifications for Sustainable Forestry

Forest certifications help to ensure your land is protected and can increase the value of your land and timber. Certified timber can hold a greater value in the marketplace as people are becoming more conscious of where their products are sourced from. Listed below are some of the forest certifications you can get involved in:

  • Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI): promotes the sustainable management of forests in the United States and Canada and the conservation of water. More information can be found here.
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): sets standards for responsible forest management in the United States using the power of the marketplace to protect forests for future generations. Learn more here.
  • American Tree Farm System (ATFS): provides family forest owners with the tools and resources to help them ensure they are delivering wood, wildlife, clean water, and recreational activities in a sustainable manner. Click here to learn more.
  • Forest Stewardship Plan (FSP): a U.S. Forest Service program that works in with state forestry agencies, cooperative extension, and conservation districts to connect private landowners with information and tools necessary to manage their forests and woodlands. Find out more about this program here.