Strip Cutting

For sometime I have been writing that I wanted to give more direct information about various aspects of forest management.  A lot of my previous blogs were more general in nature and some had little to do with actual management.  However, this is what I like about the forest and about writing these blogs, we can look at the woodlot from so many different angles.

Recent Strip Cut with fire wood waiting to be hauled home.

The strip cut is one of the easier forms of management to explain in a short blog like this.  It is quite simply, as its name implies, a narrow strip in a mature part of the forest where most trees are harvested at one time.   Of course, there are always some variations of the “text-book” definitions.  I’ll talk to you about the why, how and where this form of cutting is applied in Watts Tree Farm.

Red Oak seedling, enriching the site with new promise for higher quality tress in the future.

Since we heat our home with wood we need a supply each year of up to 8 cords (29m3) of wood.  Most of this comes from strip cuts in the woodlot.  But deciding where to cut is the question.   It is not just a random location.  It is almost never the easiest place to get the wood.  The location and layout take into account several factors.  Some thought goes into the decision and therefore the decision is guided by simple woodlot management objectives.  The first decision is we need wood from the woodlot.  The next is we would like to have a high percentage of hardwood.  We don’t mind burning softwood but we can usually get enough of this from other management practices such as plantation thinning.

7 year old Strip Cut with healthy planted white pine and red oak doing well among the naturally regenerated species.

So now that we have decided that we want to cut standing hardwood the next decision is relatively easy.  Where in the woodlot do we have the least valuable hardwood?  A stand that has almost no opportunity to be turned into high quality hardwood logs with the existing trees in the stand.  There is a stand of predominantly low-grade red maple, 60 – 80 years old that fits this description very well.  Now more thoughts will go into the layout and guide the harvest location.  The next factor to consider is the wildlife in the woodlot.  Some species of wildlife enjoy the larger hardwood trees in a more or less continuous block.  We have set aside a block of higher quality trees in which there is potential to grow good quality hardwood logs and this area will be slated for individual tree selection cutting.  But there are also some species of song birds that like the thickets of regenerating areas and this is where the strip cuts provide this diversity in the woodlot.

This site was strip cut about 20 years ago. It has received one thinning 5 years ago. Note the high quality stems of naturally regenerated birch and maple. Management works!

The strip cuts in the lowest grade ares of the woodlot also allow us to “reset the clock” so to speak to zero and we can now do improvements in the new regenerating stands.  To begin with since we use just a little wood each years our strip cuts end up being progressive strip cuts.  In other words it takes several years to cut one strip.  It is more like a series of patch cuts attached end to end with the result being a longer strip.  The strip cuts are typically about 1 – 2 times as wide as the trees are tall.  Therefor if the trees are 50 feet (15m) tall the strip cut will be between 50 – 100 ft (15-30m) wide.  As soon as the strips are cut we add other desirable species to the cut area.  This enriches both the diversity and the potential future value of the area.  Red oak and White pine are added to the newly regenerating stand.  These new young stands will be managed through the years to someday provide high quality logs along with fire wood and all the other benefits of wildlife habitat.  The strip cuts also add some visual diversity to the woodlot.  The aesthetics are another component of management that I have not yet touched on in these blogs but I am sure sometime I will.  There are other possible benefits to the strip cut method of management but we will leave those for another time.  You can click on any photo get a larger image.

Until next time, keep safe and well.


5 thoughts on “Strip Cutting

  1. very nice. excellent job of explaning the strip.
    I learned a lot. you are a great teacher.
    what about Thrid entry strip or fifth entry strip? I don’t understand for what they exist.
    Could you also explain that?

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