Selective Harvest on Conservation Easement Lands 2011-2012

This 180-acre property in Franklin County borders Smith Mountain Lake and is subject to a conservation easement co-held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the Western Virginia Land Trust. As a first step, a Forest Management Plan was prepared in order to assess the best means of harvesting timber on this exceptional property. Most of the acreage contained high quality timber, though it became evident even prior to cutting that much of it had already passed the point of both economic and biological maturity. It is a misconception that bigger trees are always better trees, and throughout the harvest we were able to see just how much the timber had been affected by age and soil type, as well as previous land use (cattle grazing).

As with most projects handled by GreenWoods, there were several important objectives that needed to be addressed for the landowners. In addition to improving health and productivity, it was imperative that the forest be left looking like… a forest! In steep topography with large trees, this becomes quite difficult to do. We also needed to consider recreational opportunities, as well as water quality (even more than usual) because there are numerous drainages and spring-fed streams which empty directly into the lake.

Because every acre is different, the cutting regime had to reflect this. About half of the acreage was marked, meaning each tree to be harvested was identified with paint. In the other areas, where the topography was steep and less conducive to selective harvesting, the loggers were given the freedom to make the best choices they could based on the limitations of harvesting in difficult terrain. The marked areas served as a guide, coupled with frequent visits to monitor progress and discuss/implement changes. Some areas (both marked and unmarked) were cut aggressively, some not at all due to terrain, and the rest fell somewhere in between. In the end, the results were outstanding and the objectives were accomplished. Cutting began in October 2011 and was completed in May 2012.

As you view the pictures of the harvest area, consider that approximately 375 truckloads of sawtimber and pulpwood were removed from this tract…

  • Access road before harvest.
  • Access road improvement.
  • Access road after grading and rock.
  • Ridge road through finished harvest area.
  • Looking toward loading deck along ridge.
  • Loading deck site looking toward finished harvest area.
  • Selectively harvested hardwood stand.
  • New skid trail.
  • Same skid trail after harvest.
  • View of the harvest area as seen from the state road below.
  • Close-up view of completed harvest area.
  • Skidding six large trees at once.
  • Large oak and poplar retained along ridge road.
  • GreenWoods dogs surveying the project.
  • GreenWoods dogs taking a water break.