What can we do to make your forest stronger?
Beneath the surface of Appalachian forests’ green is the lesser known story of widespread forest degradation. Upon the hundreds of properties and tens of thousands of acres EcoForesters’ staff has visited throughout the region, more often than not the forest is greatly diminished from past clear-cuts, repeated high-grading, invasive species infestations, eroded soils, fire suppression, and other past unsustainable forest management practices. Much of the forests that regional conservation groups spend millions of dollars to protect are in a degraded state, significantly at risk to future threats, and in desperate need of proactive stewardship. This is largely an untold story of our forests and telling this story is part of EcoForesters’ educational mission.
General consulting covers a broad category of services from reviewing a pre-existing forest management plan, to providing expert advice on timber management, to walking with a landowner through the woods and discussing the forest ecology and stewardship options.
A forest assessment provides a summary report of a property’s forests. Field data collected for the assessment provides information on species composition, age class, diameter distribution, growth rates, forest structure, forest health, and wildlife habitat for each stand type on the property. The written assessment includes photographs, a detailed description, and potential management options for each forest stand type. The assessment also includes summary data for the entire property detailing major concerns, highlights, and opportunities.
Forest Inventory and Appraisal
A forest inventory provides a report of typical numerical forestry values (boardfeet, basal area, and trees per acre) by species for different forest stands. The measured components, intensity, and scope of the inventory are variable depending on the landowner’s needs.
A timber appraisal provides the total value of the timber on a given piece of property. This estimate is arrived at through a thorough forest inventory and the use of up to date timber prices. Knowing the full value of timber on a property can assist a landowner in stewardship planning and/or financial planning.
Forest Stewardship Planning
Forest stewardship planning includes a forest assessment, as described above, but incorporates specific landowner objectives with the assessment to define stewardship goals and actions. The plan usually covers a 5 to 10-year time frame. Properties whose stewardship plans include commercial timber management as an objective can also qualify for significant property tax savings through North Carolina’s Present Use Valuation program.
While many landowners have specific financial income needs that sustainable forestry practices may provide for, the strategic harvesting of trees frequently also serves the non-income related objectives of landowners.
For example, many of our forests are even-aged as a result of past clear-cutting. If a landowner desires to restore their even-aged forest to diversity and habitat that simulates old growth conditions, then it is frequently advantageous to mimic natural disturbance patterns that create gaps in the forest. The strategic creation of gaps can favor the growth of more healthy and dominant trees, increase overall botanical diversity, and increase habitat for numerous wildlife species that depend on the structural variability of a forest that has multiple sizes and ages of trees.
During any timber sale, we work on behalf of the interests of the landowner by receiving the highest possible price for the timber while achieving the greatest potential for the landowner’s stewardship objectives. Before any timber harvesting takes place, we mark every tree that is to be removed and establish a harvest plan so that both the logger and the landowner understand the means by which stewardship objectives will be achieved.
EcoForesters has developed relationships with a set of loggers that are both trustworthy and capable when it comes to low-impact logging that protects residual trees, water quality, and other forest resources. Before any management activities take place, we will represent the landowner in establishing a contract that states the terms of payment and how a logger is to engage in stewardship activities (i.e. how trees are to be removed, how trails are to be constructed etc.). Subsequent to this agreement, we will oversee the terms of this contract and withhold a performance bond from the logger until work is satisfactorily completed.
Forest Carbon Evaluation
Forests are important for sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide, providing a valuable ecosystem service for society and ameliorating climate change. EcoForesters can calculate carbon storage and annual sequestration for your forestland.
Forest Conservation and Restoration
Forest restoration is a broad category of forest management by which a landowner seeks to restore forest health and vitality which has been compromised by past management abuses. While this work can sometimes be done in a manner that provides a profit to the landowner, restoration work often comes at a cost.
Wildlife Habitat Improvement
There are numerous means by which to enhance or create habitat for wildlife. Stewardship actions are dependent upon the landowner’s objectives, natural resources, and preferred wildlife species.
Invasive Species Control
More and more, undesirable species introduced from foreign lands are crowding out native species and even causing local extinctions. EcoForesters provides the service of mapping where these species are, planning for their removal, and then actively removing the species.
Follow-up monitoring is almost always required to keep invasive species in check over time. The time and costs of this service is highly variable dependent upon the species and scope of infestation.
Conservation Easement Baseline and Monitoring Reports
Conservation organizations that hold conservation easements often need assistance in the development of baseline and monitoring reports. The staff of EF has years of experience working for land trusts in this capacity and meeting all Land Trust Alliance standards. We provide high quality reports that detail the biological and physical characteristics of a property prior to a conservation easement and any changes that come thereafter.
Mapping and Analysis
EcoForestsers is equipped with a powerful suite of mapping software as well as expertise in geospatial analysis. Most of our services include high quality maps, and many also include some type of in-depth analysis. We use the latest airborne and satellite data available to support our management considerations.
High Quality GIS Mapping
Many of these services come with maps created in a GIS as part of the package. Some landowners are very interested in maps of their property and may desire additional maps of their trails, favorite wildlife areas, or even a map of their entire neighborhood.
Forest Structure Modeling
The implementation of new remote sensing technologies such as high-resolution multi-band imagery and LiDAR on a broad scale across the nation has many implications for land stewardship. Models can be designed to estimate tree heights, location of canopy gaps, density of understory, presence of rock outcrops, and even to detect old forest roads.
All of this can be done before ever visiting the property. Using this information assists in stewardship by yielding a general idea of the property’s conditions: increasing efficiency in the field and serving as a base of information to build from.
Spatial and Temporal Analyses
A few types of analyses provided include:
- Active forest disturbance monitoring.Using satellite data, before-and-after analyses can determine the location and estimate the date of disturbances such as blowdowns or insect/disease dieback. This service can also monitor general forest vigor to determine forest health trends.
- Viewshed analysis. This type of analysis determines the visibility of an area from an area of observation. Areas of observation can include overlooks, roads, mountain peaks, community centers, or any point of interest. Types of uses for this information include aiding in the decision making process for land acquisition.
- Variable Buffer Analysis. Buffers are widely used in both land management and conservation. Typically a fixed-width buffer is applied, but in many cases this type of buffer may not adequately protect the resources it is designed to. Variable width buffers take any number of factors into a model that can adjust the buffer distance intelligently. For instance, stream buffers that become wider as the stream bank slope increases and as soil permeability decreases and as stream flow volume increases.
A story map is a new medium for presenting geospatial data. It is an interactive, digital, multimedia platform that can contain a wide variety of types of information. Project-specific data can be overlain on basemaps to provide unique ways to visualize and share content. These allow us to present interactive forest management plans, photos at various locations, 3D renderings of management strategies overlain on the terrain of a property, and more. The possibilities are endless!