Kentucky is a hardwood state typically ranking in the top 5 hardwood producing states in the United States. Not only is Kentucky able to grow large volumes of sawtimber but some of the finest quality timber in the world can be found growing in our state. Managing timber can allow woodland owners to enhance the productivity and health of their woodlands and with more than 100 native tree species and fifty of them with commercial value there are a lot of options to consider.

In many ways, managing timber is similar to gardening. You select the plants that you want to be successful and you try to ensure they have the resources they need and remove or control weeds and other plants that are competing with the trees you want to be successful. Many timber management practices are efforts to control light because sunlight is one thing that can be controlled in a woodland setting. It is impractical to irrigate or fertilize natural woodlands but management practices can be done that will change how and where sunlight is distributed within the woodland through the removal of selected trees. Sometimes these practices can be done and provide an economic return to the woodland owner and other times they are done as an investment to prove the growth and composition of a woodland. 

Attributes that make woodlands diverse:

  • Woodland age
  • Species composition
  • Site quality
  • Past management/harvesting practices
  • Topographic position
  • Burned or not
  • Grazed or not
  • Invasive species present or nearby
  • And many more…

Woodland owners’ objectives can be as varied as the woodlands they own making it challenging to know what to do. That is where a professional forester comes in.There is no substitute to having one visit your property with you to offer advice and technical expertise in helping you to produce high-quality timber while meeting any other management objectives.  Fortunately, Kentucky woodland owners have access to service foresters through the Kentucky Division of Forestry or consulting foresters through the Kentucky Association of Consulting Foresters.

Timber Management Options

Different timber management practices can be done at different stages of woodland development some are done with an eye to improving the current stand and some are primarily working toward the future stand but all can be beneficial when applied appropriately.  Some examples include:

  • Crop Tree Release: Trees that can meet woodland owner objectives and are likely to respond to release are selected. The crop trees are released on two to four sides by treating the trees that are competing (ex. canopies touching). Treatments to competing trees can include removal, girdling, and/or the use of herbicides. 
  • Timber Stand Improvement (TSI)—a practice that includes a variety of efforts that improve the overall health and productivity of a woodland. TSI is often prescribed in degraded woodlands and includes the removal of inferior timber species or cull trees. It can also include the removal of grapevines that are in potentially valuable timber trees. 
  • Invasive Species Control —the early detection and eradication of invasive species is extremely important in promoting woodland health and productivity.  Invasive species left unchecked can become extremely challenging to combat and woodland owners should include a plan for dealing with them in any timber management activities.
  • Shelterwood with Mid-story removal—the removal of most trees in the mid-story. The purpose of this is to increase the amount of sunlight reaching trees that require an intermediate amount of light (oak trees).  Once the trees become established and capable of occupying the site the overstory is removed to release the trees.

Kentucky’s woodlands can be productive and provide an economic return through timber management. Woodland owners can match timber objectives with other objectives such as wildlife and are encouraged to work with professional foresters in the management of their woodlands.



Kentucky Woodlands Magazine
KWM ArticleRelated Articles

Monitoring Your Woodlands

Monitoring Your Woodlands Part 2