My grandkids asked me once,” why would someone build a stone wall in the woods grampy”? They know the answer to that question now.
So now that we figured out what caused the woods to be what they are, now we must determine what we do next. With all the poor quality pine and aspen in the woodlot, and the marketability of maple syrup and maple sugar products increasing all the time, managing the lot for a sugar bush is a very good possibility.
On the other hand, managing for maple saw logs is the other option depending upon the size of the crowns, tree diameters and the spacing of the trees.
Sugar maple management for logs is different than for maple sap production. Saw logs come from trees that are grown with tighter spacing, or more trees per acre. The lower branches never form or die off due to the lack of sunlight. Saw log trees have straight boles and are devoid of branches until you get to the top crown of the tree. Well managed sugar maple demands an excellent price.
For maple sap production, you want just the opposite, a fully branched, wide and full 360 degree crown that gets the full exposure of sunlight to produce lots of sap. Remember photosynthesis and all that conversion to sugar stuff I talked about a few months ago.
This is where it gets interesting. If the sugar maples are getting middle aged and have a small crown, you probably should manage for saw logs. You will want to keep a tighter spacing, but still thin so the tree grows in diameter. You need to look up at the crowns of the trees and make a decision on what you will keep and what will be culled out. Depending on the age and diameter of the maples, it will make a difference on how you thin out the woods and what trees will be culled. There are some excellent articles on the internet about sugar bush management that anyone considering doing some forestry work should take a look at.
Rich Redman is a retired District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and an avid outdoorsman. His column will appear regularly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.