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Glossary of Forestry and Timber-Related Terms

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Owning land is one of the best investments you can make for your future. Property is generally going to increase in value over time. It’s steady and nearly future-proof, but even in the worst-case scenario, you at least have somewhere in which to live and build. 

Residents of the High country, foothills, and piedmont of western North Carolina can often trace their ancestry back many generations. They have lived on or at least had access to the “family land” for centuries. Others have capitalized on the relatively low local property prices and become landowners recently. 

Whether you have had property in your family for generations or you are new to land ownership, you want to do everything you can to ensure it’s cared for and holds its value. If you can find ways to make your land produce some income, that’s even better, right? Proper land and forestry management are key to getting the most out of your property ownership experience. 

In order to manage your property well, you have to familiarize yourself with the terms related to the industry. Church & Church Lumber has been helping landowners manage their property and forests for many years. We can help you protect your land and get the most out of your investment. 

We want to help you speak the language of forestry managers and timber harvesters, so you can take care of what you have. This article is a short glossary of timber and forestry-related terms. 

Glossary of Timber and Forestry Terms

We’ll break this guide down into four sections:

  1. Basic Terms: These are some of the words you need to know first to understand property ownerships, forestry management, and timber harvesting-related terms. 
  2. Land-Use Terms: Understanding land-use rules, regulations, and purposes will help you better grasp what you can and should do with your property. 
  3. Timber Harvesting Terms: Timber harvesting can be helpful and healthy for your forests. Grasping the industry terms will help you understand how you and your land can benefit from timber harvesting. 
  4. Forestry Management Terms: Timber harvesting is part of your forestry management process. This section will help you understand how forestry management works and why you need a good forestry management professional. 

If you have any questions about forestry management and timber harvesting, reach out to the team at Church & Church

1) Basic Terms

Here are some basic terms to help get you started in understanding how to manage your property:

Acre: A total land area of 43,560 square feet is considered an acre. A circular acre has a radius of 117.75 feet, while a square 1-acre plot measures 209 feet by 209 feet. The use of this metric goes all the way back to the Middle Ages. It was considered to be the volume of land that could be plowed by one individual with a team of oxen in a single day.

Hectares: In the metric system, a hectare is equal to 100 ares, or 10,000 square meters, and roughly the equivalent of 2.41 acres.

Conservation: Conservation is a term used to describe what is required to continue enjoying our natural resources for years to come. To protect and preserve our land for present and future generations, planned management and smart use of natural resources are essential. 

Environment: The totality of all external living and non-living circumstances and influences that have an impact on an organism's growth, progress, and survival. The term can apply as broadly as the earth itself and as locally as your own yard.

Ecology: The science or study of how organisms interact with their surroundings and the environment. There are many different disciples within ecology, including:

  • Ecophysiology: Studying the adaptations of the individual to their environment.
  • Autecology: Studying the differences, characteristics, and relationships within populations of species.
  • Community ecology: Studying the relationships and interactions between various species in an ecological environment.
  • Ecosystem ecology: Studying how energy and matter flow through ecosystems' biotic and abiotic components. 
  • Landscape ecology: Studying processes and relationships across numerous ecosystems or vast geographical areas. 

2) Land-Use Terms

Residential: Residential land is used to construct houses. Mobile homes, single-family homes, and apartment complexes are all examples of what would be considered residential. If your land is zoned for residential land use, you will be expected to use it accordingly, and your municipality, county, and state will have regulations governing aspects of its usage.

Commercial: This sort of land is reserved for companies, warehouses, shops, and other commerce-related facilities. Office buildings, restaurants, shops, and other enterprises are typically built on this type of land. 

Agricultural: Land designated for agricultural purposes typically includes farms, ranches, and pastures. Much of the land in western North Carolina and the foothills is used for agricultural purposes. 

Recreational: When the land use of a place is classified as recreational, it signifies that the property is intended to be utilized for the pleasure of the individuals who use it. Parks and open areas, as well as sporting grounds, playgrounds, and swimming pools, are all types of properties classified as recreational. Municipalities are the most common owners of recreational property.

3) Timber Harvesting Terms

Basic Timber Harvesting Terms

Cruise: A timber cruise is a survey of a wooded area that inventories timber and estimates its quantity based on species, products, size, health, and other factors.

Canopy: The forest canopy is the very top of the trees. It is where the crowns (uppermost part of a tree) of many trees come together to form the roof of the forest.

Deciduous: Deciduous trees have leaves that change colors and fall during autumn. Deciduous trees are what attract millions of tourists to our area during the fall. 

Conifer: Conifers are softwood trees that are evergreen with needles or scalelike leaves and conelike fruit. Pine, hemlock, cedar, and cypress are some examples of conifers in our area.

Natural Regeneration: Natural regeneration refers to the growth of young trees without the aid of people through one of these means:

  • Seeds delivered by the wind or animals
  • Seeds deposited on the floor of the forest
  • Sprouting stumps. 

Old Growth: The term "old growth" was coined in the 1970s to designate complex, biodiverse forests that were at least 150 years old. Environmentalists typically employ the phrase to describe forests with enormous, old trees that have not been impacted by humans.

Site Index: A site index is an assessment of the health of a forest site measured by the height (in feet) of the primary trees at a given age, usually around twenty-five or fifty years old. Site index data is used to forecast when the land will be productive again, and timber and animals will return.

Stand: A stand is a collection of trees that are sufficiently similar in species composition, age classes, and environmental circumstances to be handled as a group.

  • Pure Stand: A single-species stand is one in which at least a certain percentage of the trees in the main crown canopy are of the same species.
  • Mixed Stand: A mixed stand includes different types of trees, and the main tree species accounts for less than a certain percentage of the canopy.
  • Even-aged: Even-aged is used to describe a stand in which the maturity of the trees differs significantly, and three or more age classes of trees exist within it.

Snag: A snag is a stand of trees that have died. 

Bump tree: Bump trees are those that are marked to remain uncut during timber harvests. 

Types of Timber 

Hardwoods: Angiosperm trees are usually broad-leaved deciduous trees. They grow more slowly than softwoods and always lose their leaves in the autumn and winter. Below are some hardwoods that can be found in our area.

  • Beech
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Ash
  • Walnut
  • Yellow Poplar
  • Cherry

Softwood: Gymnosperm trees are conifers that have needles and cones on their branches. Softwoods typically develop more quickly and have a higher density than hardwoods. During the fall and winter, softwoods do not lose their needles. Softwoods in our area include the following:

  • White Pine
  • Loblolly Pine
  • Pitch Pine
  • Hemlock

Types of Timber Harvests 

Clearcutting: A process of tree harvesting and regeneration that involves removing all trees in a specified region. Pine and hardwood woods, which require full sunshine to rejuvenate and expand properly, are the most prevalent trees felled by clearcutting.

Selective Cutting: Selective cutting describes a lumber harvest, the deliberate removal of a single tree or groupings of trees. This is typically performed because the tree or trees are mature, huge, or sick.

Thinning: In an underdeveloped stand, selective thinning is done to improve the performance and yield of growth, as well as to improve composition, cleanliness, and the recovery of useable materials.

4) Forestry Management Terms

Basic Forestry Management Terms

Forestry: Forestry is a term that encompasses the art and science of managing woodlands to provide a variety of products and advantages, such as lumber, wildlife habitat, safe drinking water, biodiversity, and leisure.

Foresty Management: Forest management is a field of forestry that deals with organizational, judicial, financial, and societal factors related to forest management. As it applies to your land, forestry managers help you set and accomplish objectives for your property while helping you protect it and the environment.

Forest Stewardship Plan: A forest stewardship plan is developed by your forestry managers. It includes a five-year plan in a written document detailing operations that enhance or maintain forest resources such as wildlife, timber, soil, water, recreation, and beauty on your property.

Invasive Species: An invasive species is any living organism that is not native to an environment and causes damage. Invasives can include plants, insects, fish, fungi, bacteria, or even an organism's seeds or eggs. They can have negative consequences for the environment, the economy, and even human health. Invasives can damage your forests and hurt the value of your property. Harvesting timber can help eradicate invasive species.

Wildlife: The non-domesticated animals that live in your forests. There is a wide range of wildlife that call our area home. 

What You Need To Know About Professional Forestry Management

Now that you are familiar with the terms related to forestry management, you can make an informed decision regarding your property. Clearcutting and timber harvesting should be part of an overall strategy to promote healthy woodlands and ecosystems on your land. This can, of course, result in additional passive income as well. 

We want to help you take care of your property and forests. The last thing you want is to have an invasive species harm the health of your timber. 

If you have ten acres or more of land in Wilkes County, the foothills, High Country, or surrounding areas, you could benefit immensely from forestry management services. Church & Church Lumber has been helping landowners protect their investments through forest management services for many decades. Contact us today for more information about timber harvesting and forestry management.