Opportunities for landowners to maximize their woodlands

Published 6:29 am Monday, July 2, 2018

Maximizing every bit of profit from a farm is one of the keys to success. One thing that may not be at the top Kentucky landowners’ minds is their farm’s woodlands. You should be thinking about and managing your woodlands just like crops, fields, gardens or other agricultural endeavors. You can benefit by understanding the forest industry and learning basic forestry concepts, such as how to control light and density and how to manage pests to steward a healthier, more sustainable forest.

Timber owners may also realize important tax benefits and take advantage of available secondary markets for nontimber products such as hunting leases, ginseng, shiitake mushrooms and fence posts.

Private citizens own approximately 88 percent of Kentucky’s timberland. It is one of the largest agricultural and natural resource industries in the state. The statistics are impressive: Kentucky consistently ranks in the top three hardwood producing states in the country and ranks first in the South for sawlog and veneer production. More than 12 million acres, almost half of Kentucky’s land base, are forested. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the total economic impact of Kentucky’s forests and related industries contributes more than $12 billion each year to the state’s economy, and it employs more than 51,000 people.

Most of Kentucky’s forests consist of hardwoods, with oaks, yellow poplar, hickories, ash, cherry and walnut contributing to the economic value of the forest industry. Red maple is the most common individual tree species, accounting for a little more than 12 percent of all Kentucky trees.

Woodlands also are valuable for providing habitat to a wealth of wildlife. These woodlands also serve as a backdrop for much of the recreational and tourist activities in the state. Another important contribution of woodlands, but harder to put a dollar figure on, are the ecosystem services, such as water and air filtration, carbon sequestration and flood control, they provide.

More than 11 million of Kentucky’s forested acres are classified as timberland, meaning they are capable of growing commercial timber at a rate of 115 board feet of wood volume per acre per year. (A board foot is 12 inches by 12 inches by 1 inch). Logging in Kentucky is renewable, as tree growth in the state exceeds annual timber removal. The industry also ensures that commercial operations have a Master Logger graduate on-site and follow best management practices for protecting water quality at harvest sites.

Sawmills and other industries produce much less waste than in the past. Advances in machinery and utilization of sawdust and bark residue have fueled a significant reduction in waste. Now, mulch, fuel, composite wood products, charcoal and animal bedding are products of leftover wood, reducing the industry’s impact on the environment.

Anyone, who is interested in learning more about how to realize a potential economic value from forested land, has many resources. The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service offers technical training classes and programs, professional forestry workshops, technical publications, logger training and more. The annual Woodland Owners Short Course, a yearly learning conference with three locations across the state, is coming up in July and August. Visit http://forestry.ca.uky.edu/wosc for more information.

For more information, visit http://www.ukforestry.org or contact the Bell County Cooperative Extension Service.

Stacy White is the Bell County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Educational programs of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin. Source: Billy Thomas, UK extension forester