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High Grading

What is "high-grading"?
What is so bad about this practice?
What are the benefits and consequences of high-grading?
What is being done in Pennsylvania to discourage this practice?

High grading is a selective logging process by which the biggest and best trees are harvested and the rest are left. It is also referred to as "selective cutting", "selection harvesting" and "diameter limit cutting". What occurs is the exact opposite of natural, random selection. Referred to as the "hidden disaster" of US Forests, high grading gradually reduces the quality and diversity of the genetics of the trees in the harvested area. The trees that remain are often low grade and unhealthy, offering little food or shelter to animals. Though not as devastating as clear cutting, high-grading creates only short-term gains and can have long-term consequences.

A landowners may get higher short-term returns from their forests with high-grading, but the long-term value will be about half of what it would be with good management by a consulting forester . Also, there is no guarantee that landowners will get the full value of what high-graders cut anyway, as high-grading operations often involve sloppy logging practices, forest soil rutting, and residual tree damage. Although large trees are worth the most on the lumber market, sustainable forestry practices recommend leaving a certain proportion of larger trees (US Forest Service), studies have shown foresters who practice good management practices get at least 20% more when they handle timber sales. Over time, high-grading greatly reduce genetic quality and diversity of forests. High-grading leaves stands low vigor and defective individuals of abundant species, plus many individuals of rare species. Such stands will look impoverished and sparse, will require a long time and intense treatment to restore.

The challenge behind sustainable forestry practices is addressing its benefits to the numerous private forestland owners in the state. The Forest Stewardship program is one way to address this problem. Pennsylvania's Forest Stewardship Program, directed by Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, is a voluntary program to help forestland owners learn how to improve and maintain the ecological health of their forested land. Owners decide what they want to do on their land, and the Forest Stewardship Program links them with the forestry consultants who can help them how to do it sustainably.

http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/wlhabitat/forest/forest_mgmt.htm