Why Cut Down a Tree? - West Wind Hardwood

The article below my intro is re-published with Bill Cook’s Blessing, however, it was first published on October 21, 2016 – Michigan State University Extension.

In my mind, Bill’s managed forests are akin to our woodlots. In British Columbia, the term woodlot typically refers to a plot of privately owned forest land. In BC, there are an estimated 20,000+ woodlot owners in the province which have forest holdings greater than 20 hectares (50 acres); an approx. 855 active woodlots.


Woodlot licensees are small, area-based forest tenures unique to BC. In effect, it is a partnership between the license holder and the Province of BC to manage public and private forest lands. There is no differentiation between the private and Crown land when it comes to management. Both are managed to the same high standards. A woodlot holder cares for the crown land in the same way they care and tend to their private land.

A diverse group of individuals and organizations with a wide range of backgrounds are attracted to the woodlot license program; dedicated to managing the land and forest included in the woodlot license to the best of their ability and with special attention to the environment and ecological values of the forest. Their woodlot license is a source of personal pride and accomplishment.

And certainly, more information on BC Wood Lots can be found at the website for the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations (FBCWA) but at this point, I’ll let Bill continue……..

Wood is the most renewable and environmentally-friendly raw material at our disposal. Harvesting wood requires the cutting of trees. Timber harvest meets a wide range of forest objectives beyond just wood.
Why should we love to cut down a tree? Here are 10 reasons.

First, we all use wood. A lot of wood. At least four to five pounds every day. This is a good thing. Managed forests grow wood forever, and we currently grow far more wood than we use. Other raw materials have limited supplies, even if some of them occur in abundance. The full life cycle accounting for carbon and energy clearly demonstrates wood is far more sustainable than other raw materials. Substituting wood for other materials, where possible, is nearly always the more eco-friendly choice.  

Second, removing the correct trees from a woodland area helps maintain forest health and vigor. This is the single best way to prevent or minimize the effects of insects and diseases. Nature has a peculiar habit of killing forests in dramatic, if sometimes gradual, ways. This is especially true of our current forests, which are results of extreme disturbance from the historic logging era.

Photos by Shelley Nielsen – 2016

Third, a managed forest can greatly enhance the financial value of trees. Money from the forest is a good objective and can be quite lucrative if done properly. Tens of millions of acres are managed this way by corporations that report to stockholders. Many IRA retirement portfolios include these companies. It works. 

Fourth, cutting trees encourages regeneration and future forests.  Different tree species have different requirements for light, soil, water, etc.  Opening-up a stand in a way that encourages desired species is important to obtain the kinds of forests we want to see. 

Photo by Jan T Nielsen – 2016

Fifth, managed forests produce higher quality and a greater amount of ecological services, such as soil quality, clean water, carbon sequestration, nutrient retention and more. Essentially, we get more “stuff” when we manage. Nature does not work for us, but we can manage forests to work for us. 

Sixth, human population growth and demand for forest products and services are increasing. The forest area, on the other hand, is not. The rate at which the forest has been expanding is beginning to slow. More and more forest is being parcelized, contributing to millions of forest acres that are far more difficult to manage than larger tracts. This means managing forest acres that remain available to management will become increasingly important. 

Seventh, most species of wildlife, especially vertebrate wildlife, depend upon forests for at least part of their habitat requirements. There are numerous examples of animal species that have been brought back from low populations through forest management. The poster child, perhaps, is the Kirtland’s warbler. Cutting trees is an essential tool for creating habitat conditions for many wildlife species, especially game species.

Stellar’s jay – BC’s Official Bird
Photo by Jan T Nielsen – 2002

Eighth, cutting trees is key to forest restoration efforts. The vast majority of our forest has been highly altered by past practices, mostly historic and some more recently. Nature, by itself, will seldom work along these restoration pathways. 

Ninth, many dozens of non-timber forest products can be encouraged by forest management. Maple syrup, blueberries, mushrooms, nuts, fruits, medicines, and craft materials are just a few products that contribute to hobbies and cottage industries. 

Lastly, family forests are excellent tools to serve family cohesion. Forests can be important focal points for recreation and foster a deeper understanding of forest ecology. Forest management, when done as a family affair, can increase a sense of belonging and stewardship. This can lead to longer ownership tenure, stronger families and, often, better-managed forests.

Managed by the “Beaver” Family
Photo by Shelley Nielsen – 2019

The multitude of benefits and bounty from forests can only be obtained by managing for them. Left on its own, nature will not work in these directions. It’s important to note that forests will survive just fine without us if we all disappeared from the planet tomorrow. However, our survival requires the goods and services from forests. Forests are managed for people, rather than strictly from some altruistic fervor. We ignore forests at our own peril.

Photo by Shelley Nielsen – 2016

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