More Trees Than A Hundred Years Ago


Some readers found it hard to believe when I wrote in my last book, A Sanctuary of Trees, that at least in the eastern half of the United States there is more woodland now than there was a hundred years ago. Just recently, a report out of Penn State’s Department of Agricultural Sciences corroborates that claim at least for the state of Pennsylvania. The details of the study, from James Finley, a professor in Forest Resources Management, are most interesting and reflect why the good news about trees is sometimes hard to believe. While woodland is losing ground in southern Pennsylvania where there is more “development”, it is gaining in the northern part of the state, where land previously in farms is going back to forest. Your view can be influenced by where you live. I think the news is even better for tree lovers than the study reveals because it doesn’t seem to take into account the trees on developed land, like in subdivisions. Such trees are not considered part of the potentially commercial woodland, which, as I harp in the book, is a mistake. In fact some surprisingly nice “old growth forest” can actually be found in older suburbs and city villages. A good place to see that is in Cleveland, Ohio which I happen to be familiar with. In fact, if you fly low over most of our cities and villages you will get the impression that parts of them from the air look like forest cover. If they were managed properly, those trees could become part of our supply of wood.

Pennsylvania, according to the study, is 59% forested, about what it has been for the last several decades. This is the case for other states east of the Mississippi, and some in the west too. We are so accustomed to reading about our “shrinking” forests that figures like this sometimes come as a surprise. As I wrote here recently, where I live, in a woodlot in Ohio, trees are far from shrinking violets— and in fact the violets too are full speed ahead under the trees.

Interestingly, some 71% of the forests in Pennsylvania are “privately owned by individuals, families, partnerships and other entities not in the business of harvesting and using trees.”  There are some 738,000 such ownerships. Some 420,000 of them are smaller than ten acres. Also interesting is that while the number of trees has dropped slightly in the last five years, the established trees could produce 27 cords per acre where five years ago they were at the 22 cords per acre level. Obviously this wood is mostly not being utilized. And dead trees are rotting away on land that already has plenty of organic matter. In fact studies show that Pennsylvania’s forests are growing twice as fast as they are being harvested.

This is good news, I think, but since good management knows how to harvest wood in a way that does not diminish the forest, it can also be seen as a terrible waste of energy that comes to us cheaply by the power of the sun and the rain. As gas and oil become more expensive, not to mention that multi-billion dollar subsidized fiasco, ethanol from grain, this wood could become part of our energy program without diminishing the forests. It already is for many of us who heat at least partially with wood. The matter is all the more important because so much land once in cultivation or pasture is now being abandoned not only in Pennsylvania, but all over. I own some of that kind of land myself. It could be pasture AND forest but that’s another subject.

The negative news about our stable forest acreage is that some of it— lots of it— is not growing back yet to more desirable species like oak, maple, ash, walnut, hickory and wild cherry. On all those forest acreages under ten acres in size, as well as in all the yards around our homes, owners could, with only a little effort, be making sure that good hardwoods are growing there. All you have to do is give them a start and maybe a little protection from the deer and stand back. In the struggle for survival, wherever the rainfall is sufficient, the trees will win.

P.S. This being Thanksgiving, I want to thank all of you for your witty, wise, good-natured, and evocative responses to my writing. You are a precious bunch of people and I am extremely fortunate to have your attention.


Anywhere you go in the Northeast out in the woods that have stonewalls running through them were previously field. The town that I grew up in Central New Hampshire had almost no trees. They have a history of pictures at the local historical society. Most of those fields were used for sheep. Hence all the woolen mills along all the rivers. New Hampshire is now the second most forested state behind Maine. New Hampshire is 85%-87% forested.

Just found this blog today after more years of enjoying Gene Logsdon’s writings than I care to remember. I can easily believe that there are more trees here in southern Wisconsin than 100 years ago. I live on seven acres of mostly wooded hillside 25 miles southwest of Madison. Although the soil is thin and mostly composed of sand, It’s difficult to KEEP trees from growing here. Ash and oak dominate, with black walnut close behind, and smaller numbers of elm, maple, cherry, and black locust. Probably 50% of the trees on my land are ash. Unfortunately, emerald ash borer has recently appeared in our county. I’ve been planting hundreds of sugar maples each year (because they’ll survive in the shade of the larger trees) in anticipation of a large-scale ash die-off. But if the ash follow the path of the elms before them, we’ll have considerably fewer mature trees here before long.

    Bob, your tree situation is just like ours. But I see a little more hope as far as elms and ash go. The elms all died in our woods but seedlings came on and now we have quite a few bigger elms growing healthily. Also I notice that thousands of tiny ash seedlings are coming up and my bet is that the borer will die out and these seedlings will make a new crop of white ash. Thanks for your kind words. Gene

Gary, I think you missed my point. I am trying to manage for the overall health of the forest which also produces the most clear defect free wood per acre. Restorative Forestry is not just about lumber, but the whole forest. I definitely understand the pressure to sell the land for development, this is the greatest threat to forestland everywhere – permanent changes in land use. You know subdivisions – where they cut all the trees down and name the streets after them, then buy ornamental trees and plant them in their yards. We also manage thousands of acres where leasing hunting rights are a part of the long term strategy to keep the land forested. I don’t think the highest lease agreement will equal an annual 12% growth rate of an enhanced forested condition. I could be wrong about that since hunting leases are not that expensive in Virginia, particularly western Virginia. A great thing about hunting leases is when the hunters repair fences, replace gates, repair roads, plant food plots and police and post the land to keep other hunters from poaching. Your point about seasonally appropriate use of roads is a fine management objective. Sounds like you have a nice established stable road system in place. I suspect if the plots for clear cutting through group selection methods are small, then the operator or logger is too and probably provides a more sensitive service. I bet your forest is beautiful. We often create openings twice the size of the height of the surrounding trees just by removing a few larger decedent trees in one spot. They often occur that way from previous management activities. This allows for a healthy mix of pioneers and some shade intolerant species of dominants.

Gene, If you have not read “Green Spirit, trees are the answer” by Patrick Moore. Definitly worth your time.

Dear Gene, You’re a treasure and an inspiration. Thanks for signing my book last year in Ohio. Here is a story I wrote in your honor:

Around here you can find someone with a bandsaw mill to harvest wood from within the city In fact a friend of mind is a custom cabinet man and one of my neighbors had him build his kitchen cabinets. The builder knew of giant maples slated for removal from a local University campus. He was able to obtain the logs and have them milled by a local sawyer. You would not belileve the quality of those beautiful cabinets and they have a story that goes with them.
The very old timers tell of times where the hills around here were striped of timber to be made into railroad ties. You would never know this now they are once again covered in oak timber

Gene, your thoughtful and inquisitive work has over the yers provided us readers with an intellectual bounty for which we should all be deeply thankful.

I am also thankful for being able to count upon the bonus of the consistently interesting and often edifying responses furnished by the regular contributors to the online discussions that are invariably prompted by the topics raised by Gene. The candid and mutually respectful manner in which views are exchanged among this group, whether when in agreement or otherwise, would be a fine model for more of our politicians to emulate if only more of the folks in office could bring themselves to calmly communicate.

With warm wishes for the holiday season to Gene and all of the rest of you who share enjoyment in digesting — and who also participate in creating — the abundance of food for thought that can always be harvested at this site,


HI Gene, Great article,but out here on the other side of ole miss,where corn is king we’re a little short on trees. The abandon farm sites are being plowed under and the groves are torn out and burned. Just this year I brought home ten loads of ash and left who knows how many.
The trackhoe had made huge piles in the “reclaimed farm ground” so high I couldn’t cut any more safely. When the price of land hit $20,000 the land owners went insane. Doesn’t anyone remember the early 80’s when we buried a lot of our friends?

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for such thought provoking posts! Here in NH, as well as in VT and ME, the percentage of forested land has reversed in the last 200 years. When merino sheep were introduced in 1820 +/-, the “craze to graze” them resulted in heavy deforestation. That, coupled with the millions of cords of wood the railroad needed all over the northeast, resulted in just 20% of forested land, mostly in rocky areas not suited for farming or grazing. Entire mountains were deforested and the damage to the land was considerable. When the forests began to grow back after the sheep craze subsided, a different type of forest emerged — gone were the vast stands of oak, elm and chestnut replaced by the faster growing maples, birches and white pine. The 80% forested land that we see here today is beautiful but not the same as it once was. I suspect that a similar situation prevails in other woodland states.

However, as you said, suburbia has retained and continues to nurture beautiful species of trees that are hard to find elsewhere; “specimen trees” is a term born out of suburban expansion. House lots are worth much more when wooded by these beautiful trees. Hard to pictures these places as long gone farmland or indigenous species.

Gene, as our friend Wendell says, “this is a complex issue”. The lower value, lower productive, unhealthy, damaged and diseased trees in the forest, that are harvested on the “worst first” single tree selection method are definitely valuable. They often contain “character” wood with different colors and grain patterns than clear defect free wood and are often processed to accent those character features and used in multiple applications. We often quarter saw old chestnut oak to reveal the intensity of their lateral rays and very slow growth. We also process crotch wood to reveal a flame crotch grain pattern that are used to accent furniture and in particular cabinet door panels. There is no question the the yield from such trees is lower when it comes to value added processing steps leading to a stable commodity of kiln dried wood ready for fabrication into an end user product. These trees often are crooked, mineral stained wind shook, frost cracked, compression stressed and rotting from the inside out. So the percentage of material available is reduced and not of the higher grades that are in demand and therefore more valuable. The important point as a land manager is to leave the best trees growing in an enhanced condition of a faster rate. The residual trees are also the property of the landowner that essentially has an improved stock portfolio using the natural capital system economic analogy. That’s the point I try to make when speaking on this subject and pull out my wallet and hold it up and say, “this is the most environmentally sensitive part of everyone”. Point being that he who can grow the most clear lumber per acre makes the most money over time and until such work pays the most – nothing will change..The greatest value for the practitioners of Restorative Forestry is the human dignity dividend of feeling good about what you are doing with yourself. It’s hard to buy groceries of pay taxes with that. ..

The work to practice Restorative Forestry is harder, more dangerous and far more skilled than just logging. I like to make the distinction of the difference between a “logger” and a “woodsman”. A logger is someone that converts standing timber to the commodity of raw logs delivered to the sawmill for a fee. A woodsman is someone that sees the forest as more than the trees and understands that in order to have a job the forest must stay intact as their place of employment in the future. Having harvested several sites in my community multiple times over the last 30 years I am happy with the results of this approach as being a way to improve the forested natural resources while addressing human needs for forest products. In fact these long term management strategies result in more volume and value over the long run, again with that increased value being the property of the landowner. A key to this practice is having landowners with a stable ownership status and a long term investment approach that are not needy for the most money they can get in once in a lifetime harvest.

To return to your question of these worst first and invasive species being valuable – there are some examples. First would be the invasive tree Royal Pawlonia. This is an invasive tree that is disturbance dependent for establishing itself. This tree is a scared tree to the Japanese and is used in the building of Kimona (sp.) shoes, plates and boxes for storing valuables in and is a gift for many newlyweds as a tradition in that country. It is a very stable wood that stays the same shape after processing and has the highly unusual characteristic of being virtually fireproof. It will hard burn, and if you don’t believe that put some sticks of it in your stove with regular native species and see what’s still there in the morning. Certain specimens of this species are extremely valuable. The ones that grow in a forested setting with good form (stem to crown ratio) and slow growth are still in demand for the export market. That is the most valuable invasive species I’m aware of. I call it Toyota revenge. Other invasive vegetation is not so easy to monetize. I was at a forestry conference once presenting the HHFF/Draftwood approach and someone asked me how I would deal with invasive plants. The first response is that they are all disturbance dependent so the best place to start is light disturbance, which of course our methods provide. Then the next idea is that we could tend/steward our forests in an old world European way of actually putting people in the woods to battle these plants by hand. At the time there was a hot topic issue of immigration reform or what do we do with 15 million illegal immigrates in this country and how do we help them become tax paying citizens since as Wendell wrote, they are doing the work in this country that our natural citizens don’t want to do. There was some talk about an amnesty program being tossed around. So my idea was to fight fire with fire so to speak and have a program that allowed community service projects throughout the country where the illegal aliens fought the alien invasive plants. The notion was that if we can put a bounty on coyotes that are harming livestock maybe we could put a bounty on these invasive plants that are displacing valuable native species and have them collected at county landfills and added to the bio-mass used for co-generation of electricity. Of course some in the audience poo pooed my government to the rescue idea, but who else could possibly do such a thing that would generally be for the public good? Not the market, as there is no market for invasive botanical material generally. This woody material such as oriental bittersweet does create bio mass. Unfortunately it is also so vigorous that it will totally displace native tree species when the disturbance is to great. This includes in the Group Selection patch clear cuts and the repeatedly used road systems for extraction suggested by Gary. Skid trails and haul roads are the primary cause of “non-source point sedimentation”.and increase the total daily load allowance of soil movement by excessive erosion. . Yea I know, some of these academic/governmental phrases don’t make sense.

I have also seen folks use althanthus to grow oyster mushrooms on, which thankfully don’t taste like those trees smell. An interesting note on Althanthus is that recently a fungus has been discovered that is species specific and is being cultured as a biological control for that species here in Virginia. There is no question that these lesser productive trees all contain fuel wood. In some parts of the country pulpwood is a market for this material. In other parts of the country there are whole tree chipping for co-generaton plants. Some of those scenarios may be as impractical as making ethanol from corn. Often there is more energy spent than gained, particularly when the whole process is included, from bare ground to product delivered.

Converting any of this wood into long term carbon storage in the form of finished forest products is better than letting it lay on the forest floor and rot, releasing the carbon back into the atmosphere. All the smaller limbs and stems should be left in the forest to return nutrients to the soil, reduce erosion and nurture wildlife. The idea that clear cuts are “needed” to support wildlife that are so over populated now that they are damaging the future forest doesn’t make sense to me.

I give thanks for all the thinkers and doers out there, carry on folks, keep doing your good work, Happy Thanksgiving!

    Jason on my farm my permanent roads/trails
    on the mountain have little if any soil movement.The key is to not use them for joy or recreational use for 4 wheelers and the like but to use them to be able to get to most of the area to cut trees out.Also sensible use like using them in periods of dry weather keep them leaf covered year round.Most of these roads were actually county roads traveled by the public up until the early 20th Century when they were abandoned around 1905.As a landowner if I can’t have these roads to acess my property then the property would then become of little value to me and since I live in an area where land goes for 15 to 20 thousand$ an acre I’d be better off selling for development anyway and many that own forest land in my area are in the same boat.Also with landowners like myself hunting leases can bring in far more return than the timber ever will so its to my advantage to manage for maximum wildlife habitat.Turkeys,Deer and Bear are what I manage and plant for in the fields around the woods but of course most all other species of wildlife benefit from from this tood for food and cover.Managing a forest isn’t as simple as just managing for maximum
    lumber production as much of the time lumber production is way down the list.Each situation/forest is different and has to be managed differently.
    lumber production there are usually many other factors involved and each case has a different set of problems/solutions.

I second Deb’s comments, Gene. So glad you’re still around to shake things up by looking at them sideways and making us think!

We are the thankful ones for having you and Carol as role models and for keeping us on our toes with your observations and questions. Whenever I think I’m too old to keep trying to save the world and just give up, I remember you’re still older & smarter than I will ever be!

Over the last 30 years, I have watched the succession in our 40 acres of woods here in Middle Tennessee. Around here, red cedar, tulip poplar, elm, and white ash are the pioneer species that take over old fields. We are now seeing the emergence of sugar maple, beech, red oak, hickories, and black walnut as the dominant canopy trees in what foresters call the “climax” forest. My hope is that these new sugar maples will join our existing tapping trees in our older woods and be of tapping size for our now six-month old grandson in another fifteen or twenty years.

A Happy and Gracious Thanksgiving to all. I imagine that more than a few of Gene’s readers will be feasting on a homegrown bird tomorrow.

In downtown State College, Pa on the walls of the Tavern Restaurant are prints of Pennsylvania towns from the middle of the 19th century. The hills surrounding these towns are barer than a new born baby. A visit to any of those locales today will find the forest having regrown nicely. In my little valley you can find ancient apple trees still surviving in the interior of the five to ten acre woods that have reclaimed old farmsteads. Ever since Col. Drake started the oil boom in 1858, the need for wood to power the economy has shrunk to near zero. The Pennsylvania Wilds stretching across the northern third of the state is a direct result.

Our bit of woods produces a house worth of firewood and great forage for chickens. Like other minor landholders we preserve the trees for both their aesthetic and environmental benefits. Woodcocks are making a comeback in our valley because of the patchwork of woodlands and meadows that has arisen from less intensive land use.

I am one of those folks Jason is talking about. My 12 acres is about 1/3 forested and the rest is in pasture, house, barn, garden, pond. Because most of the forested part is steep, it hasn’t been clearcut recently and there are some huge red oak, white oak, and hickory. Along the creek bed are many big black walnut. The last thing I want to do is have this place clearcut, but I do get all my firewood from it and use the red cedar and locust as fence posts. I wouldn’t mind having a few trees harvested to prevent losing them to natural causes–but that’s not available in my area so they eventually succumb and become firewood. Ah well.

    I know clear cutting gets a very bad rap because it looks so desolate for awhile after cutting but having obseved several different tracts of timber grow back that some were clear cut and some were conventionally logged the clear cuts usually end up with the better more useful stand of trees.Several reasons for this I have observed 1) Conventionally logged usually means cut the good stuff and leave the sub standard trees standing which usually means what is left is hollow,crooked and trees of little commercial value to carry on the forest.When its clear cut everthing has an equal chance at regrowth and its easier to weed out the undesirables which brings me to 2)Roads/trails thru the woodlot with a clear cut the roads can be made thru the area easily with a tractor and bush hog this makes it much easier to maintain the forest and cut out not so good trees for firewood and other uses.Also as a clear cut grows back for about the 1st ten years its the best haven for wildlife that can be had as many species of plants will grow for awhile until the trees start to have more and more shade cover.In my opinion a 50 acre woodlot that is clearcut in 10 acre increments every 10 years would be Ideal for maximizing the value of wood production and wildlife.

      Gary, I must say when I think of clear cutting in small increments as you describe, it does make a little sense. Before coming to Middle Tennessee I spent most of my life out West and came to see the benefit of natural wildfires–natures way of clear cutting and renewal.

First off a Happy Thanksgiving from the state of Virginia where the 1st Thanksgiving was held on the bank of the James River.
As far as the number of acres in woods of some sort here in Central VA there is definitely a whole lot more than 50 years ago when genuine small farms flourished here now not so many unfortunately.Placing a value on woodland is tricky and depends on many things as demand varies widely for different types of wood at different locations.Also the cost of harvest has to be figured in if a stand of Oaks I have is ‘valued’ at $20,000 but after splitting the harvesting with a logger I only get $8,000 then they are only ‘worth’ $8,000 so some other alternate use might be better for me.I’d say over all the smaller woodlots are worth far more to the owners than the large ones because of things of value like shade for man and beast,a place to cut firewood,a place to cut a few Hickory trees to use in the smoker,a place to fatten a few hogs on Acorns etc etc that the owner of a large tract of trees wouldn’t benefit from as much per acre as one can only burn so much firewood or eat so much pork.
Anyway I think there is no need to worry about forests disapperaring anytime soon in the
Eastern US at least.

Happy Thanksgiving Gene and readers. This is a great post as it is the same subject matter that is used in my public educational efforts through Healing Harvest Forest Foundation and our Draftwood community green certified forest products business.

The statistics you quote from Jim Finley (who I co-presented with at the Foundation for Sustainable Forests, “Loving the land through working Forest” conference this may, along with our friend Wendell Berry) – are the same for most eastern states.

The fact that the largest forestland ownership status is in tracts of 10 acres or less avails some of the best timber, to the Biological Woodsmen that we train at HHFF, who may access many private woodlots. When these NIPF’s are surveyed about the values and objectives of owning these small woodlots, the number one consideration it the aesthetic natural beauty of the forests they live in. They are not interested in commercial conventional harvesting and those methods are equally not suited for application on such small tracts. In order to pay for moving equipment from patch to patch the conventional logger would want to high grade or clear cut to meet expenses of moving/operating cost. The NIPF’s will not have that done to their woods. So, what was once considered a niche service of “horse logging” now is the “method of choice” and best fit for the largest volume of forestland available in the eastern oak, hickory forest type.. Ironical?
No, just appropriate, especially in meeting the objective of the landowners to keep their forest beautiful. I came by this information years ago as the average sized private woodlot was 40 acres and it’s now down to ten in Virginia too. At the time these demographics were first released the concern from the forest products industry was that this material was needed to supply quality hardwoods for sawmills and NOT available through conventional mechanized harvesting operations. The environmentalist call it forest fragmentation. But we are experiencing better attitudes about the long term management of these small woodlots because they are not seen as an asset to liquidate and move on. We also experience that if you practice Restorative Forestry on one side of the property line and then on the other side, the lines disappear from a forested perspective, or may I say – what the trees see…

Now, there is another consideration and value that is important to recognize. I was invited to testify before a Va. state legislative committee on the subject of “How do we keep private forestlands forested?” – There were a wide variety of interests speaking at this hearing, both super green and industrial forestry spokesmen. As usual I found myself in the middle. The theme of my comments seemed to be heard for the first time that day and are still being refined to this day. My contention is that if we “quantify the value of the ecological services provided by the private forestland we would have a way to create incentives to keep the forest forested. The public is receiving Ecological Services from every tree. The quantification of their value was first defined in urban and suburban areas in the form of: shade reducing air conditioning cost, wind blockage reducing heating cost, soil erosion control reducing sedimentation and keeping water clean and of course carbon sequestration and storage to combat rising co2 levels in our atmosphere. There is some value to the comfort of having trees around too, that may fall into mental health benefits. So, my contention is that if we do quantify the value of the ecological services provided by an urban tree, then every tree is just as valuable ecologically. There is only one air and one water. Another good reason for quantifying the value of ecological services is to justify the costs of practicing surgical, improvement, restorative styled forestry – as being more labor intensive and skilled. Especially when using modern draft animal powered techniques. We have translated that into a different payment system to the landowners for the logs removed in this process of “worst first” single tree selection and simply don’t pay the same stumpage split in our sharecropping system of harvesting in Appalachia. The landowners are happy and we access needed material for human needs and supplying local mills when we don’t have markets for value added forest products through the Draftwood, Inc. system. This situation also allows for “community based forestry” or working closer to home and often within driving distance with the horses themselves to work in a neighbors woods.

On the notion that we have more trees growing today than we did a hundred years ago, of course we do. A hundred years ago almost all the trees were cut east of the Mississippi. So we surely have more trees now than then. The important issue for me is to make the most of what trees we have now and that means practicing improvement restorative styled forestry that moves the forest toward an intermediate/climax condition. We are on the cusp of that opportunity and every woodlot we work in creates those conditions in the present and leads to an improved, healthier, more valuable forest in the future. When it comes to the forest it is a great opportunity for man to age the trees. That is the management I am interested in practicing. It is not easy and not as financially rewarding in the short term. But for the long term it is the right thing to do and as much as possible, we are doing it.

Anyone may read more what we are doing at: or – as well as my Facebook pages.

Thanks for your writing this blog Gene, I really enjoy your work here.

Best Regards in Warm Salute,

Jason Rutledge

    Jason, thank you so much for sharing your tree wisdom here. I just talked to Wendell last night. He tells me he;s just visited you again. He is really really impressed with what you and your horse loggers are doing. It is so interesting to me too because I think we are overlooking so many opportunities in small acreage forestry and what you say is right on the money. I have a notion mentioned in passing by your and other respondents that I wanted to get your reaction to. Am I just a dreamer to think that maybe some of the second rate trees in the woods now might be, in a culture looking for wood products, just as valuable as oak and walnut and cherry and ash and other prized hardwoods? I saw on Google some bows (as in bow and arrow) made by artisans in Texas out of osage orange. They were beautiful, I mean really beautiful. I cuss osage orange most of the time as a problem but here is a wonderful use for it. Heavens, you could just hang one of those bows on the wall for decoration. Prettier than a Rembrandt. Anyway, could maybe a new discovery make even an invasive species valuable some day? Gene

Hi, Gene. A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to you and yourn.

Yes, there is a lot of misconception still about trees and woods. And I’ll look forward to reading your book to hear more about what you have to say.

Forests are returning under very diff conditions in 2013 and 1913. And I believe the most important characteristic to compare is fragmentation of ownership. Things are just a lot more divided now than they were 1913. There are how many times more ownership? Each with a different goal. The goal in a lot of ownership today is serenity and aesthetics, and there is nothing wrong with that….
But remember you still had a large amount of hogs running free in areas 1913 and you had wildfires that Smokey the bear wasn’t messing with. And so what came back was those nice trees you’re talking about oaks, cherry and all those sun loving things. And of course deer reintroduction didn’t start till what the 40s? It was a different world. But the conditions that made the forests we have today don’t exist anymore.

And that’s not to mention invasive species that we have to deal with now. …
So what’ll it take to maintain the oaks, walnuts cherries that we value now … answer is A LOT.
A LOT of sun to get them started (unsightly and not serene to do that sometimes)
A LOT of management to control invasives until canopy closes and still control afterwards too.

But personally I think the most important thing we can do is to create policies that encourage increased population density in cities. Keep the country as wild as possible. It’s gonna be a tough thing to do.
Urban wood utilization is good.

Hey Americans, forget about bamboo hardwood floors – use a native species. Way more sustainable in the long run. Gotta keep a market for OUR wood as a priority.

PEACE TO YOU over in OH, from IN, Yer Friend, E

    Eumaeus, peace to you too. I will ask you the same question I asked Jason below. If we imagine a time in the future when we had to use wood for a whole lot of things that we now rely on getting from other materials including heat, might not some of the less valuable trees right now, including invasives, be found to supply these needs? I am hearing about using cheap pine sawdust for kitty litter boxes because it masks kitty’s manure smell and rots fast into compost. And red cedar almost a pest in the Ohio River Valley probably has far more uses than it is used for now. What do you think? Gene

      Hi Gene, We certainly should, I think, to use trees to heat our homes and maybe our schools. There is plenty of wood for that. Scale is important in these issues. Should we use trees, to create base load in co-generation electric plants? No, I don’t think so. Using wood to heat our homes is one thing. Something we’ve been doing a long time, right? But using wood to charge our iPad is probably not a good idea.

      But as far as the invasives, we tread into some sticky territory. We should use them as we manage them as we can and as we try to eradicate them (again, try). But we shouldn’t sell them. Just like we shouldn’t sell the right for hunters to come onto our property to hunt wild boar. The boar just needs to be shot on sight. Sure, eat it. No worries. But you start making a sport out of it, or making money off of it, then the problem is perpetuated. ‘Fore you know it you’ll have an industry and a lobbying group talking about their rights…

      So, yeah. You got a bunch a tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), by all means treat that stump and kill the bugger. And when you’re sure it is dead go ahead and cut it down if you can use it for something. But I wouldn’t say, hey mulch company come in here and chip up all this Ailanthus and pay me for it by the ton. Same thing goes for biomass.

      With invasives we have to be careful how we might subtly perpetuate the problem. This is mainly to protect the non-renewable resource that is sometimes scary for natural resource professionals – biodiversity.

      Red cedar, black locust and other native invasives are less a problem. Have at ’em. Sell em. whatever. I seem to remember something about red cedar curing cancer in missouri, or was that paw paw in kentucky… Now I’m messing around.

There might be a greater percentage of the land base in woodland now, but I wonder about the actual mass of trees? Those ‘new’ woodlands, I can only assume, aren’t filled with old-growth oaks and hickories and such, but with trees of considerably smaller diameter. Sounds grammatically incorrect to put it this way, but is there as much trees now as there was X years ago? Is there more trees now? Less?

On a side note, I’ve got an old run-down fence running along the treeline in one pasture that needs replacing. The fence (6-strand barbed wire) is grown up largely in eastern red cedars, most of a size suitable for making posts of. My understanding is that once the growing tip of a cedar is cut, the tree dies. My question is, can I cut some of these trees at the appropriate height and just leave the lower part in the ground to serve as posts? Will they keep? Anybody tried this?

    Why bother? I have the same situation and am refencing my property little by little each year to keep in the goats. I just run from old post to tree to whatever is there in the fencerow to connect to. I justify this by knowing that my bees and other critters benefit from these overgrown fencerows. There are tons of red cedars along these fencerows with old wire girding them and they are still growing. But then I’m a sloppy farmer even though my cross-fencing looks pretty darn good!

      I would bother because nearly all of the (quite old) existing wooden posts are rotted at ground level and need replacing. By lopping off the top of the cedars currently growing in the fence row, I can get another post from each tree.

      Anybody else tried this?

      Wes, what I meant was, why do you have to do the extra work of lopping off the top of the trees? They can be fenceposts as they are.

      Betty, many of the trees are large enough that I can lop the tops off, limb them, and use the tops as fence posts, in addition to the long trunks still left in the ground. So instead of leaving the tree whole and getting one post, I can cut off the tops and get two posts. Assuming, of course, that by removing the tops the (now dead) part left in the ground won’t rot.

      In reply to a few points made by other contributors, I’ll add an additional two cents regarding the main pioneer and invasive species I deal with, from my limited experience dealing with them.

      Eastern red cedar — We live about 5 miles from a small cedar sawmill that buys logs and turns them into boards for suburban and urban backyard fences. They can hardly keep up with demand. Around here a person could keep him or herself mighty busy cutting down those pesky trees and cashing them in. In addition, the mill sells (cheaply enough) the cedar sawdust they produce. We use it for our composting sawdust toilet, and as kitty litter. (Cat feces, “holy” though it may be, is perhaps the one most deserving of the title “shit,” in my opinion. But I prefer cats in the house to the marauding band of mice.) And of course cedar has many other uses: closet linings (repels clothes moths), fence posts, furniture, etc. We’ll gather the “berries” on occasion and use them interchangeably with store-bought (and expensive) juniper berries. Not the same thing, but close enough. And though everyone says not to burn cedar in a wood stove, I throw a few sticks on to get a good fire going with no problem. The high resin content seems to help.

      Multiflora rose — I had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation given by grazier Greg Judy last winter where he explained that his sheep absolutely love multiflora rose. Originally he intended to let them kill it by grazing, then realized that if he rotated his sheep before they could decimate the rose, it would regrow and they could have at it the next time they were in that paddock. By managing it through grazing, he could have a more or less indefinite supply of sheep forage, without taking anything away from his cows. I mentioned in response to a previous post of Gene’s that we’ve had Japanese beetles covering multiflora rose but not touching the garden plants. And we seem to have a rabbit burrow beneath nearly every rose plant in our pastures; I could cut those bushes down, but what would that do to our rabbit population (and potential meat supply)? Multiflora-rose-hip jelly sounds promising.

      Honey locust — I hate this tree with a passion, but like anything it has its upsides. (My mom, at 55, has a scar on the bottom of one foot, a remnant of stepping on a locust thorn as a child.) From what I understand it’s a legume, so that’s a plus. The pods make decent fodder for livestock. And if that “holy” substance really hits the fan and we have to revert to hand-to-hand combat in war situations, I’d think a club cut from a smallish honey locust trunk would be quite useful.

      Gooseberries — I don’t know if the lowly gooseberry bush might be viewed in a negative light in the context of the current discussion, but they love the woods edge on our property, and they make walking through those areas a literal pain (though at least their thorns just poke–they don’t grab like multiflora rose or blackberry thorns). But gooseberry pie, oh my.

      In general, I wonder about how much more syrup production we could wrestle from our woodlands. Is there any potential from some of the pioneer and invasive species? Sugar maple is a given, but how about those silver maples dotting yards everywhere? (I plan on tapping mine this spring.) I hear black walnut makes pretty decent syrup, though of course it’s not invasive and not a pioneer.

      As far as the usefulness of a variety of woods, the book A Natural History of Trees is a great resource.

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