Timber Stand Improvement

It may be better to have fewer quality trees than a larger quantity of not-so-great trees. Forests can seem much like gardens; weeds can quickly take over. Vegetation aggressively occupies any available growing space, so the only way to alter the forest, or control its composition, is by killing undesirable trees and vegetation.

As paradoxical as it may seem, the primary way to improve forested wildlife habitat is to carefully destroy certain parts of it. This “weeding” process as applied to mature stands of trees is known as Timber Stand Improvement (TSI).

Apply TSI in one of four methods to maximize its potential for wildlife:

1. Manage for mast producing species to provide food for wildlife

  • enhance the quality of these beneficial trees by using TSI to reduce woody underbrush
  • remove less desirable species, such as sweetgum, elm, cherry and cedar, which compete with the mast trees for water and nutrients
  • less competition means more resources, and better, more dependable mast production

HOW TO: In small areas (an acre or less), remove smaller trees and shrubs using bush axes, loppers, chain saws and a lot of elbow grease. Use a hand or backpack sprayer to apply herbicide to the cut stumps to limit resprouts, which can be a problem with hardwoods.

2. Get your hands dirty

  • try girdling, severing the bark and cambium entirely around the trunk to quickly get rid of undesirable species
  • use the hack-and-squirt technique by hacking the tree with an axe and squirting it with herbicide for faster results
  • both methods are easier than completely removing trees

3. Cover a lot of ground mechanically

  • bush hogging can be used to clear smaller saplings and bushes
  • heavy-duty mulchers are more effective on larger trees and brush

4. Remove invasives

  • use your hands or mechanical devices to rid land of invasive species which choke out open wildlife habitat

Try TSI on one of your favorite spots and see the benefits of better mast, better browse and more game.

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