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A forester can help you create a long-range plan

September 23, 1999

Ah! It's autumn, with the nostalgic scent of burning leaves in the cool, crisp air. Oops, no, scratch that. Burning leaves pollutes the air and destroys an ideal source of compost. Especially in times of drought, open fires are a no-no. Let me start again.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Ah! It's autumn, with the unmistakable sound of chain saws in the air.

That, though far from romantic, is far more likely these days.

I hate the sound of chain saws. It conjures up visions of clear-cut forests and majestic, ancient trees crashing to the ground as rain forests are leveled.

But although I cringe when I step outside and hear chain saws at work in nearby woodlands, I know it's necessary. There's no way I can complain about logging and then drive into town and buy a 2-by-4, or a sheet of plywood, or even a piece of furniture.

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I firmly believe we should stop logging the remaining 5 percent of our nation's original old-growth forests. I always check first and refuse to buy products made from old-growth wood. But like every other American, I use and demand many, many products made from trees, including the paper this column is printed on.

Well, those trees have to be cut down somewhere. Some of them are grown on tree farms, but a lot of them come from forests like those in Washington County. About 31 percent of Washington County is forested, and most of that is owned by about 5,000 private landowners.

None of that woodland is the way it was when European settlers arrived here, and it never will be again. We humans have had a big impact on our forests, and it's up to us to manage them responsibly.

If landowners play their cards right, they can maintain the health of their forests, provide habitat for wildlife and make some money in the process.

That doesn't mean selling timber to the first logger who knocks at your door and offers you $20,000 for your best trees. People who do that could find themselves with a degraded forest that is of little value for anything. But landowners who manage their forests wisely can keep them healthy and harvest them for selected timber every 10 or 15 years.

The key is to have an overall plan for your woodland. Especially if you own more than 10 acres, the best way to do that is to consult a forester.

He or she can help you create a long-range management plan that tells you what trees to cut, when to cut and the right way to do it. A forester can help you get the best price for your timber and make sure that any damage caused - especially from building logging roads through your property - is kept to a minimum.

Public foresters can do a lot for you for free, but you'll need a consulting forester to help you sell timber. They work as agents, usually on a commission, but you can more than make up for that cost by getting a better price for your timber and making sure the job is done right.

For information about both kinds of foresters, call your local forest service or extension service. The number for the forest service in Washington County is 301-791-4733.

With a little help from these folks, you won't have to cringe, as I do, when you hear the sound of chain saws at work in your woods.

Dennis Shaw is a former Herald-Mail editor. Write him at 12364 Harvey Road, Clear Spring, Md. 21722.

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