Couple learns about forestry on 55th wedding anniversary

A northeastern Missouri couple, Ed and Janet Watson, celebrated their 55th anniversary by learning about forestry at a field day offered by University of Missouri Extension and the Missouri Department of Conservation. (Photo courtesy of Brian Schweiss.)

A forestry field day might seem like an unlikely place to spend a wedding anniversary, says University of Missouri Extension natural resources specialist Brian Schweiss. But a northeastern Missouri couple thought it sounded like “a good outing to someplace we had never been before” to celebrate 55 years of a marriage as strong as the forest’s trees.

The Watsons live on a small farm in Lewis County near Ewing. They have 30 acres of cropland and another 30 acres of woods and creek. They discussed having a timber sale as some of their trees matured and others declined.

They wanted to harvest some for income and encourage the growth of younger trees by making more sunlight available to them. Like many landowners, the Watsons enjoy the trees on their farm and the birds and animals they support. Their main concern in having a timber sale was doing it correctly so their woods will continue to grow and provide the same enjoyment to future generations.

A forestry field day at Rudolph Bennitt Conservation Area in Randolph County, sponsored by MU Extension and the Missouri Department of Conservation, helped them learn about the timber sale process.

The workshop walked participants through various stages of forest growth resulting from past timber sales. They saw harvested areas that were thinned to promote the growth of the remaining trees and others that were cut a bit harder to regenerate oak seedlings and create a young forest.

Participants saw where similar practices had occurred 10 to 30 years earlier to get an idea of how the forest responds to these harvests. Presenters discussed practices like crop tree release and prescribed fire for woodland management, says Schweiss.

The Watsons also attended a seminar by MU Extension state forestry specialist Hank Stelzer last December at the Missouri Livestock Symposium in Kirksville. In his presentation, “Timber Sales: What the Landowner Needs to Know,” Stelzer suggests having a consulting forester help with planning.

“We have done that, but the workshop gave us the opportunity to visit several actual timber harvest sites. We have a much better understanding of what to expect during and after the harvest,” said Janet Watson.

Workshop participants received other tips on forest health and wildlife habitat. These included:

  • If your goal is to maintain oaks in the forest, make sure oak seedlings are present prior to the harvest. If seedlings are lacking, the future forest may not have many oaks.
  • Timber sales can help create young, “brushy” areas mixed in with older trees. This creates diverse cover that benefits a variety of wildlife.
  • Do not harvest the best and leave the rest! Leaving poor-quality trees today means you will have poor-quality trees tomorrow.

There are several upcoming workshops this fall for woodland owners. For more information, contact Schweiss at 573-882-4775.