For the past six years, I have volunteered with the New York State Master Forest Owner program, which has allowed me to meet a number of local woodland owners, and to walk their properties with them, offering thoughts on woodlot management. On one of my first visits, I met a friendly, middle-aged man who had recently purchased a 100+ acre property that included a very promising young stand of Sugar Maple. The trees averaged maybe 6″ in diameter, and it was nearly a pure stand (almost all Sugar Maple). When he asked my opinion of the stand, I told him that I thought it was great, as many woodlots in this area are dominated by Red Maple, a lesser value species, and that, if he were so inclined, he would be looking at a very lucrative timber harvest in about 60 years. He looked at me like I had 3 (or more) heads. I think I even saw a flash of anger in his eyes. Evidently he was hoping that those trees were somehow going to quadruple in diameter before he retired in 10 or 20 years.
Unfortunately, I had burst his bubble—unlike investing in a tech startup, or winning the lottery, growing trees for profit is a long-term enterprise, even under the best of circumstances. In the case of Sugar Maple—a relatively slow-growing species—it can take 125 years or more to reach maturity. That being said, there are a number of steps a woodland owner can take to dramatically increase the vigor and growth rate of a stand of timber, which I’ll finally start to get into the nuts and bolts of in the next post. Unfortunately, none of them involve a magic wand, and all require hard work—and still require patience. Here’s a photo of a middle-aged Sugar Maple, taking its own sweet time…………………………..