The Pocahontas County High School forestry department was given a large task by the Board of Education – to cruise the timber on the board’s property in Green Bank and provide a report of their findings.
At the April 9 board meeting, the forestry students – with the assistance of their teacher Scott Garber –presented their report, as well as offering their suggestions for the future of the land.
Garber began the presentation, warming up the board for the students who anxiously awaited their turns.
“We have never done a project as far as a cruise of this magnitude with our little handy-dandy technology that we’ve got,” Garber said. “We have four of those and with the mapping stuff and the cruising information we learned in class, the guys work up a cruise and put plots on the ground out on the map and then with that – using our handhelds and what we cover in the curriculum – the guys work up a cruise and they go out and estimate the volume of timber on the property. Then, using information we get from the Division of Forestry, we can put rough estimates of prices on different species of timber.”
The students cruised 10 percent of the trees on the property and with the handhelds, were able to get an estimate of the total stand.
With this being the largest project the students have done, Garber prefaced that the report may not be equal to a professional cruise, but the students did well despite for having only a few years of forestry under their belts.
“They’ve cruised maybe a hundred trees in their life,” he said. “They’re not professionals, who have been doing it for ten or fifteen years, but they do a good job, and they are as accurate as they can be. Each group cruised roughly a third of the plots. I think we have thirty-two plots.”
Garber yielded the floor to the students, who were divided into three groups for the cruise. Each group shared findings from their reports and gave suggestions for ways the land and timber can be used.
The first team included Kyle Cohenour and Christian Smith. A third member, Jake Gardner, was unable to attend the meeting.
Cohenour gave a run-down of the timber species on the land, as well as the types of soil.
“The timber species throughout consisted of red maple, scarlet oak, black oak, white oak, red oak, eastern hemlock and hickory,” he said. “A few of the different soils found on the property were Macove Channely Silt Loam which is around the three to eight percent slope. White oak and Virginia pine generally prefer these slopes. Another soil that we found there was Potomac Loam – thriving on that would be northern red oak, white oak and eastern white pine. All of those have the site index of seventy.”
Cohenour explained that a site index is an estimate of how much a timber specie will grow over the span of 50 years.
During their cruise, the students observed some health issues affecting part of the timber.
“The forest health issues we ran into while we were there were vascular diseases affecting the red oak, black oak and scarlet oak,” Cohenour said. “There is probably potential for gypsy moth there because of all the white oak, but while we were there, we didn’t see a whole lot of signs of it.”
Although there were no signs of gypsy moths, Cohenour reported hemlock wooly adelgid on several of the eastern hemlock trees.
Smith broke down the economic analysis of the cruise and estimated the value of the timber.
“The cruise has a total of 463,711 board feet and 7,729 board feet per acre,” Smith said. “The total basal area per acre is 67 square feet. There was a total of 3,123 saw timber trees with an average DBH, which is your diameter breast height, of 14.9 inches. For the pulpwood stands there was a total of 7,842 pulp trees equal to 2,002.2 tons – 0.3 tons per tree and 33.4 tons per acre. The average DBH was 7.8 inches. The average pulp height was 3.5 and total basal area per acre is 46.5 square feet.”
Taking into consideration all the measurements, the team was able to estimate the financial return if the saw timber and pulpwood trees were timbered.
“As an outcome, the pulp trees were $2.47 per ton with a potential of bringing $4,951.28,” Smith said.
Sharing the goals and objectives for the future of the site, Smith said there are several ways to utilize the timber to create an educational and profitable environment.
“We want to use it for teaching tools – your silviculture, your forest management, pest control, timber harvesting and disease control,” he said. “After obtaining our measurements, we pretty much decided that we would do a selective cut that would be beneficial for the thicker pine patch due to inadequate space and deformed, diseased and decayed trees limiting growth for more merchantable trees or desirable trees.”
Smith added that a non-scientific cutting would be necessary to enhance the growth of remaining trees throughout the stands. The team also suggests a shelter wood-cut in the white oak stand to help the growth of valuable intermediate trees.
“We aim to raise the yield of all the pines to 19,200 board feet in two years and then next we would aim to raise the yield of the hardwood stands to 19,323 board feet,” he said. “We would also like to leave some of the trees for dendrology purposes – as a teaching tool.”
The next team, Cedric Wooddell, Jason Jackson and Nathan Morrison, presented information on the how the land is now being used and offered suggestions for future use. Morrison participated in the cruise process, but was unable to attend the BOE meeting.
“We discovered this property is also being used for hunting, fishing, trapping and maple syrup,” Wooddell said. “We noticed a lot of tree stands back in the woods. We weren’t sure if people were allowed to hunt there or not.”
Jackson said they found swampy areas, as well as other issues that would alter the productivity of the timber.
“Just in the field itself, when it rains, it’s always kind of swampy and soft when walking down through there,” Jackson said. “Several factors affect forest health and productivity – there are insects, disease, vehicle damage, erosion and people using the land that shouldn’t be.”
Wooddell shared the team’s objectives for the land and the future of the timber.
“We need to provide periodic income through the sale of timber products; to maintain the species composition at the two stands; provide wildlife habitat and protect the value of the stream and water for the wildlife; to identify and protect special features of the tract and enhance the aesthetics of the tract while meeting the other objectives; and to also use this property for teaching purposes,” he said.
The last team consisted of Trey Rabel, Jarrett Taylor and Tyler Dean. Rabel was the only member in attendance and gave the presentation himself.
“We separated the land into stands – we have the mixed timber, the pines, the pine thicket and we also added the field,” he said. “The reason we added the field is because we would like to make a little Christmas tree farm – plant Christmas trees there and make a little bit of profit off of it while also managing the land. We’d also cut out a lot of the hemlock because it’s infected with hemlock wooly adelgid which would kill it over the years.”
The team also suggested cutting the poor quality trees for firewood and sell the firewood for profit.
The board thanked the students for their presentation and said it looks forward to working on the project in the future.
Board member Steve Tritapoe was the first to admit he didn’t know much about the technical side of forestry and said the students did a great job.
“You can tell I don’t get out much into the woods in that aspect, but I really enjoyed them coming in and speaking to all of us,” he said. “I found that very interesting. Kudos to them and Mr. Garber.”
After the meeting, Garber said he hopes the board is interested in implementing some of the suggestions given by the students because they are excited to get back out there and do some management.
“Depending on what the board would decide on what they want to do with it, potentially, yeah, we would go up there and timber some of the stands,” he said. “I know Christian’s group, and maybe every group put in there, that one of the primary objectives was to use it as a teaching tool. That way, we could go in there and perform small thinnings here and there and improvement cuts here and there.”