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Serious Forest Thinning At Last

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Like much of the western mountains, the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico have suffered from decades of  wildfire suppression and the cessation of commercial logging. However, after years of planning and studies we now have a serious thinning effort underway in the mountains around our property. (We are one of 4 or 5 private landowners who ar surrounded by the Santa fe National Forest. We've thinned our land, most of the neighbors have not... but that is another matter.)

Here are a few pictures we took between Christmas and New Years.

This is an area very close to us. Before the thinning we could not see the slope in the distance. It was a wall of green pines.

A closer in shot of the central area from the first image. Taken closer and looking to the right down the road that runs up the draw.

Yours truly standing in front of one of the numerous stacks of logs, showing typical range of sizes harvested.

In some places even larger trees have been harvested as well as the smallest and everything in between. The present active contract is for approximately 1200 acres. One day while we were tramping around the woods on our snowshoes we cameacross the forest service fuels specialist. We chatted a while. The project is aimed at reducing the tree density down to 20 to 60 trees per acre, average. That is from a high in many places of 900 to 1000 trees per acre.

Unfortunately there is not a big market for the harvested trees. Mostly the larger trees will become large size posts and beams for custom homes. NM also uses a number of peeled round logs in many custom homes... in the manner that all homes here used to be built. However, when it comes to 2x lumber it is difficult to compete on price with Canadian imports and plantation lumber from the Southern USA. So much of the harvest will end up being gathered for firewood in spring and summer. Once the logs are removed and the slash dry then those piles will be burned next winter.

Then we will see the native grasses regrow. We've already seen more deer than in previous years, all because of the greater visibility through the trees. It is also so cool to be able to see the lay of the land, to be able to seethe slopes and details in the distance. We are thrilled to see the work that has been done so far. This should go a long ways to improve the general health of the forest here.

Very nice....trees with elbow room are definitely happier and healthier!  [cool]....We've seen the same thing up here: after decades of wildfire suppression, then a major die-off from bark beetles, you can hardly walk through the woods anymore...solid walls of brush, dead fallen trees, and tallgrass intertwined through it all.... :-[

That thinning looks very nice, that is pretty much how a western forest is supposed to look. They were having the same problem with doghair stands of ponderosa when we were working in the Black Hills. The land will support X amount of biomass, we can choose for it to be a dense scrubby stand or a healthy renewable resource. Once we enter into the equation we take on the role of gardener. Looks like some good timber came out. The sawmill in the hills put in a pellet plant, Rapid City was an inversion pocket but clean pellet stoves were allowed, so it was a win/win. Who is the real environmentalist here  ;)

 If I were to do that type of separation in my white pines the forester said I would have windthrow, they are supporting one another on pretty shallow roots. That would be from me not thinning them 30 years ago. He suggested a clearcut of that area. I need to take them in chunks I can digest so will clearcut pockets back to back hoping not to smush the small hardwoods waiting in the shadows. Actually a young oak can be browsed every year for a decade or so and just work on its roots. They can take some damage but it obviously sets them back. When I talk to foresters my ignorance shines but I enjoy it.

Adam Roby:
Just saw this video of a piece of equipment cutting trees and stripped them of their branches.
Thing looks crazy, wouldn't take long to do a forest with this thing.

(Not sure if its a public video on Facebook)
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The video worked for me. Nice all in one machine.

Terry who has the contract here has individual machines. His  feller buncher (machine that grasps and cuts the tree) is a Timberpro. It was new last year. It is tracked; very wide stance. His harvester (removes branches as the tree is fed through) is an oldie. 


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