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Silviculture – An Art and Science of Growing Trees

Many foresters were exposed to the art and science of silviculture in the college classroom and learned the methods of applying different practices in the forest. High yield forestry was the term often spoken about and guided forest management. Starting with good genes, fast growth, good vigor and high yield will produce a supply of wood products, a healthy forest, and economic gain. This sounded good, seemed to work well, and made sense.

Then came ecosystem management. A buzz word or a change. Most foresters who actually manage on the ground, did not see anything really new in the application of ecosystem management. One point that did arise was that management should be conducted on a watershed or large land scale basis, where possible. For ownerships that managed these vast acres, this could have advantages for water quality, wildlife and aesthetics. Smaller ownerships do not see the advantages and often have little impact when compared to the larger federal or commercial land holdings.

Just about the time we started to get our arms around ecosystem management, sustainable forestry came to the forefront with long-term resource management that considered the social, biological and economics of managing a forest. As sustainable forestry matured and management was specifically identified, Forest Certification became the method used to evaluate, measure and audit if the management practices of sustainable forests are actually occurring on the land.

In with sustainable forestry comes forest health, a situation we find ourselves in due to the management practices of the past, primarily caused by the suppression of wildfires and lack of any management on federal lands.

The word silviculture, the art and science of growing trees has not shown up since the first sentence of this article. Nor does the word show up in the many colorful terms used to describe these methods of managing forests. On a large scale basis (i.e. watershed or drainage) these new terms have a spotlight because they claim to improve the resource and its management. For the non-industrial private landowner (NIPF), forestry rates as only one of the top five reasons for owning forest, and it is not at the top of the list. Ecosystem management is difficult at best to implement anywhere and is even more difficult with multiple small owners in a drainage. Sustainable Forestry with social responsibility, biological integrity and sound economics is practiced by many small NIPF landowners already because they recreate and/or live on the land and work toward social, health, and periodic income balance. As far as forest health, most managed forests do not have a forest health issue and when they do it can be addressed quickly. The art and science of growing trees to maintain a healthy and vigorous forest happens when there is a understanding of the ecological and biological conditions of individual trees and the interaction with the plants and animals in these habitats. Well thought-out silvicultural practices and the understanding of new research will produce a sustainable forest for the benefit of wildlife, all the forest users, and water resources.

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