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Timber Harvest Improves Forest, Brings in Some Revenue

July 22, 2008

By James A. Kimble, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

Jul. 22–SALEM — The 235-acre Salem Town Forest has been undergoing a makeover over the past month.

But it’s not one that hikers or bikers may notice.

Foresters just removed dozens of trees from 32 acres of land in the forest’s northeast corner, including white pine, red oak, black oak, pine and cordwood.

It’s done every 15 years as a way to improve the forest’s health. It’s also a way to encourage a diversity of wildlife, ranging from woodpeckers to deer and beavers, conservation experts say. The first selective cutting was done in the town forest in 1994.

“That first cut was mainly taking small, suppressed, diseased, stunted trees,” said Ron Klemarczyk, a licensed forester from Rumney who oversaw the cutting. “It’s what we call a thinning from below. It’s mostly small, crummy trees.”

The latest cutting focused on much of the same. Work started in June.

The last of the felled trees will be removed today and then be trucked to a variety of wood mills, foreign countries and even a local power company.

“It’s kind of interesting. The professional foresters encourage us to actively manage the forest instead of leaving it alone,” town planner Ross Moldoff said. “It’s better for wildlife, better for growth of trees and … we make some money doing it, too.”

But the money isn’t as good as it used to be, according to Klemarczyk.

“With the housing down, some of the low grade logs, which would have sold as oak saw logs, can only be marketed with pallet logs,” he said.

So what once fetched $225 per 1,000 board feet, now brings about $25 as “pallet-grade” wood, he said.

Salem is expected to gross between $8,000 to $9,000, walking away with a profit of $7,000 once expenses for the logging are paid for. Salem first developed its forest management plan in 1988, which designates how and when the town should harvest its timber.

Klemarczyk said most of the cutting was in areas where there are no trails. Some of the cutting may be visible from Trail G, a bike path.

“Typically, if hikers stay on the trails, they’re going to have minimal contact with it,” he said.

The goal is to give higher quality trees room and sunlight, to grow. The southern end of the forest is remaining untouched for “old growth” — larger trees that may even die or hollow out, he said. Such spots give easy nesting places to birds like the pileated woodpecker.

The wood just harvested is headed to places across the region. Wood chips are being sold to Public Service of New Hampshire to be burned at their wood-and-coal-fired plant in Portsmouth. Other logs are being sold to a lumber business in Henniker. Pine is also being sold to LaValley Lumber in Maine.

“The interesting thing is the pine cut in 1994 was exported to China; this time the oak pallet was shipped to Canada,” Klemarczyk said. “There’s something about your forest down there; it just doesn’t want to stay in this country.”

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