I belong to a sporting organization that owns some property in Montmorency county. They had recently done some cutting for forest management and the area cut is a mess. They left most of the smaller branches and smaller logs laying all over in the cutting area. I haven't dived deep into the reasoning the club has used yet, but it was suggested to me that this was somehow recommended by the forester they brought in. Yet searching myself, I am not finding any 'strategy' information that includes leaving such huge amounts of detritus on the ground. It strikes me as primarily being a huge fire hazard, discouraging wildlife from using the area and renders it unwalkable and thus unusable. Meanwhile, I 'have' found a number of forest management strategy resources (including the MSU website) that list the benefits of clearing the ground (warming the earth to promote growth with clearcutting for example and removing fire hazards with mastication) Are you aware of or can you put me onto any scientific or other materials that would list the benefits of leaving such a large amount of cutting scrap behind? This organization just like any other of it's type is prone to a lot of 'egos' and a fair share of politics. I would prefer to know what I am talking about before bringing it up with the other members or the board. SW
Montmorency County Michigan
Thank you for contacting "Ask an Expert!"
I agree that most all timber harvests are not pretty just after they are finished. The piles can be unsightly and near impossible to walk through. There are, however, a number of benefits to leaving slash on site. Most notably are nutrient cycling, wildlife habitat, and most importantly for our part of the state, protecting the next generation of trees from deer. Deer are one of the fiercest challenges foresters have regenerating trees after a harvest, oaks in particular are a favorite of deer due to the multiple and nutrient rich buds at the tip of the seedling. Slash helps to protect the seedlings as it is hard for deer to walk through the area. Slash can also provide much needed shade for seedlings as the sand can reach 120 degrees on a hot, sunny summer day.
Slash can be a fire risk for sure. One thing I consider is that flames from a wildfire can burn three times the height of the fuel it is burning. When I think of a forest burning three times the height of the trees, compared with a fire burning three times the height of the slash, I'm comforted just a bit by the possibility of extinguishing fire burning in the latter scenario.
I did find several articles that address slash. Here are some for you to consider:
This one discusses the benefits of slash, and its use for wood heating/energy.
Slash: What Good is it?
Penn State Department of Ecosystem Science and Management
This article by the DNR lists the benefits of slash at the end, under “Other Considerations.”
Wisconsin Forest Management Guidelines (slash addressed on page 51)
The article does mention the large fires in Wisconsin (they happened in Michigan, too) due to the slash left in piles, but remember nearly all of the trees were cut, and the slash was much more and cover a much larger area than slash would be on the site of a modern day harvest.
Logging Methods for Wisconsin Woodlands