Forest Management Monitoring

Monitoring the effects of tactical forest management activities and decisions - like timber harvesting, fuels management, and habitat manipulation - is important for a variety of reasons. It can help to assess whether harvest objectives were met, and can inform whether additional interventions are needed to achieve desired outcomes. Monitoring at both the local and state-wide levels are integral to the implementation of adaptive management of the forest resource.

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Why monitor forest management?

Monitoring forest management activities
Monitoring forest management activities

As the entity that manages the largest area of forest land on behalf of the Commonwealth, the Bureau of Forestry has a responsibility to engage in sound, science-backed and data-driven management; and to lead by example.  Monitoring the effects of tactical forest management activities and decisions like timber harvesting, fuels management, and habitat manipulation is important for a variety of reasons.  It can help to assess whether harvest objectives were met, and can inform whether additional interventions are needed to achieve desired outcomes.  Monitoring at both the tactical level (localized, individual management activity like a stand exam prior to a timber harvest) and strategic level (CFI and estimates at a property, regional, or statewide level) are integral to the implementation of adaptive management of the forest resource.

To ensure full transparency of forestry efforts within state forests, forest management planning documents will evaluate the results of forest management efforts through monitoring or “stand examination” within approximately five years of management activity.

Key Actions for Why monitor forest management?

How is project level monitoring conducted?

The Forest Management team has a systematic tactical monitoring effort in place.  Beyond district foresters' comprehensive checks of ongoing management activities; and casual, qualitative monitoring of their districts on an ongoing basis; this effort:

  • Selects for sampling approximately 5 years after their date of completion management activities performed under a single contract.
  • Establishes a systematic sample of points from a random start within the treatment area, to ensure adequate sample size, good geographic coverage, and avoid bias, for example, toward easily accessible areas near roads.
  • Requires, for the most commonly implemented type of management activity – timber harvesting – at each of those points:
    • A deliberate, quantitative measurement of:
      • Forest overstory (large trees) composition and structure in terms of species, abundance, basal area, and diameter distribution;
      • Regeneration (seedlings and saplings) composition and structure in terms of species, abundance, basal area, and height distribution;
      • Structural elements like standing dead trees (snags), and pieces and piles of coarse woody debris, in terms of species; snag, or piece and pile abundance; and pile depth.
    • A qualitative assessment of characteristics like residual stand damage, and interfering and undesirable species abundance and distribution.
    • Documentation of conditions at a subset of points using pictures taken at various locations throughout the activity area.

Different management activities may have slightly different sampling requirements than those described above.  For example, fuels treatment activities in fire-adapted forests may include fuels sampling of additional down woody material or litter and duff; or shrub distribution.  By focusing on sampling items directly related to measuring management activities, rather than a broader suite of variables, our staff can efficiently gather the data needed to evaluate whether their management activities had their intended effect.

Monitoring Efforts Expectations

What This Monitoring Effort Is:

  • Designed to generate information that is useful to the manager to help them understand the outcomes of their management activities as implemented.
    • Did the prescribed forestry treatment have the intended short term results?
    • If not, what are the possible reasons?
  • Designed to keep the public informed as to the effects of forest management activities in general and on state lands in particular.
  • A good example of model forestry and adaptive management for other landowners and practitioners of forestry and silviculture.
  • A field protocol designed to allow for flexible, efficient, and rapid work effort under more adverse conditions (e.g., brushy, thorny, limited visibility) than typical.
  • Designed to measure things directly related to tactical management activities.
  • A set of tools to standardize data recording, processing, reporting, and archiving.
  • An opportunity to observe, while on site, the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (BMPs) implemented during a management activity.

What This Monitoring Effort is Not:

  • Intended to evaluate hypotheses, in a statistical framework, as to whether management activities are meeting goals.
  • Intended to answer questions about the variability of populations or post-management conditions.
  • Intended to be a long-term or strategic effort at the scale of an individual site.
  • Intended to be a comprehensive ecological study of each site.
  • Intended to quantitatively or otherwise address whether the requirements of the Forest Cutting Practices Act or any other statutes, laws, regulations, bylaws, or policies are being met.
  • Intended to generate very precise estimates of the attributes of interest.

Additional Resources for Monitoring Efforts Expectations

Results of Monitoring Forest Management

Results are presented as a short summary of each management activity sold or managed as a discrete unit.  First, the history of the site and management activity are described.  The current character and condition of the overstory and understory are provided, as well as an assessment of standing dead trees (snags) and coarse woody debris.  Any qualitative notes about the site, management effects, interfering native and non-native species or conditions are summarized; and pictures are provided.  Tables of each of the number and basal area of live and dead trees are provided; broken down by species and size class.  Estimates of coarse woody debris are also provided in a table.  Quantitative results are expressed on a mean per-acre basis.  It is important to note that no acre will have the exact characteristics of the mean except by chance.

Initial monitoring efforts presented from this webpage were drawn wherever possible from forestry projects completed five years ago and after forest management activities began post Forest Futures Visioning Process (FFVP).  Because this was not always possible, some projects selected for inventory in 2019 were drawn from timber sales completed just prior to the FFVP which was conducted 2009 – 2010.

Key Actions for Results of Monitoring Forest Management

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