Should I Do Natural Regeneration?

clearcut forestry management planting reforestation Dec 11, 2022

Before you even sign the contract to sell your trees... 

Before the logger fells the FIRST tree on your property....

You should have a decent reforestation plan!

No, you don't need ALL the specifics, but you should have a general idea of expectations.

An example of this might be what type of mechanical site prep are you likely to need or consider; will you be planning to bed this area (was it previously bedded.) Of course, this is an estimated idea as many mechanical sites prep is dependent on after logging results. 

Do you know what you want to replant in: loblolly, slash or longleaf pine? 

Or are you planning to have a natural regeneration approach?

If you do nothing for long enough, that is also a decision FOR natural regeneration by default, whether you want it or not. The land will revegetate all by itself, the question is whether that will provide you the long-term expectations you want...

I've heard the stories, and perhaps you're currently living this story: 

Daddy and Granddaddy always harvested every 30 years and just let the trees come back up by themselves... and it's "free money" so why not pursue that too?

And although that is technically true, in many circumstances that money may turn out to be chump change versus true investment options. 

So, let's look at the THREE requirements/opportunities it would take before I would recommend natural regeneration

  1. It's successfully provided great volume and stocking rates in the past in that spot.
  2. It is SURROUNDED by your idea regeneration trees (whether it's a particular tree species or plantations.
  3. It's NOT a substantially large clearcut acreage.

There is a lot of risk and unknown, external factors when pursuing natural regeneration (actually ALL the factors are completely out of your control, which is why I don't tend to favor this regime.) So if you don't make at least 2/3 of those indications above, I personally will try to talk you out of it. 

The problem with natural regen is the simple fact you have NO control. 

  • It may be understocked.
  • Could be way overstocked (although admittedly an easier fix).
  • It's typically not consistent.
  • You never get the monetary stumpage you expect (typically because of inconsistent stocking and lower product values).

Intentional reforestation gives you some of the control back on expectations long term for what you are creating. **Not ALL the control because life is still life, and many external factors still exist... especially for weather. **

So, although I, personally, will 99% of the time recommend the full reforestation process (mechanical, herbicide, 605 TPA) by keeping a percentage of your timber sale funds for reinvestment back to the land...

The important thing is to INTENTIONALLY decide how you will conduct your reforestation efforts before you even cut your trees.

And whatever you decide to do...

Write it down.

Then prepare yourself with the right expectations for your management efforts. 

Find Out the One Thing I Ask ALL My Students When Just Getting Started as A Landowner. 

Whether you plan to inherit land, have recently inherited, or perhaps you're just now ready to get involved, I have a secret to help you make the right decisions no matter your experience, acreage, or location.

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