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Logging, nature co-exist in Pa.

June 06, 1999

Ridge and Valley forestryBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Gregory Baker has found a niche balancing woodlot owners' desire to make money with their timber against protecting wildlife that make the owners' trees their home.

Baker, 43, owns Ridge and Valley Forestry at 219 W. Main St. in Waynesboro, a one-man show that operates out of a small office behind an apartment building. Baker, a Waynesboro native, has been in business for 14 years. Most of his clients own large and small wooded tracts in Franklin County and nearby Maryland. Baker has a degree in forest science from Penn State University.

Baker's clients come from word-of-mouth and his perusal of county tax records to see who owns timberland, he said.

He writes to potential clients offering to do a free initial inspection and inventory of their woodland to check for overall condition and health. If the landowner agrees to hire him, Baker defines the boundaries of the woodlot to be harvested. He selects and marks each tree to be cut and records the species and diameter and estimates the amount of board-feet that will be harvested.

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Baker prepares bid packages and sends them to area sawmill and logging operations. His commission is 10 percent of the selling price.

There is much to consider when selecting which trees to cut down, Baker said.

Wildlife habitat, protection of the forest for future harvesting, protection against erosion and other damage and post-cutting reclamation practices are all considerations for him, he said.

"I look at large trees to see if they should be saved for habitat," he said. "If it looks like a good den tree or if it has large outstretching limbs that are good for perches, I recommend leaving it for wildlife.

"Each level - from low-level shrubs to mid-level trees to the upper canopy - supports a different wildlife species."

Baker recommends cutting some large trees to allow sunlight to the seedlings below. "If you have a 20-acre woodlot and you cut 25 percent of the trees, it gives those remaining room to grow," he said.

That way, nature takes its course and the woodlot owner utilizes a renewable resource.

"There is such a heavy demand for timber," Baker said. "The first tract of timber I sold in 1984 would be worth four or five times as much now because lumber is so much more valuable."

Money isn't the only motivating factor, though, Baker said.

"I'm doing what I've been trained for, to manage forests and allow a resource to be there for the future with careful selection and protection of habitat," he said. "Stands I'm working in today can be harvested again in 20 years."

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