March 14, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Lexington was not the only area devastated by a late February ice storm. Many northern and central Kentucky counties also experienced losses. The storm caused considerable damage to woodland areas.

"After several days of repairs to households and immediate surroundings, landowners began to evaluate the amount of damage created in their woodlands," said Doug McLaren, University of Kentucky Extension forest specialist. "Many trees were totally lost due to splitting or over-topping of the entire stem. In many cases, limbs of various sizes had broken out of individual trees."

Concerned landowners need to know what to do with the damage they find and how to manage it in a way that will minimize profit losses in the future. McLaren offered some helpful tips about how to approach timber management based on ice storm damage.

"It's a good idea to have either a forester from the Kentucky Division of Forestry or a forest consultant evaluate your timber resource," he said. "They will be able to tell you the true picture of the damage you received since not every tree is valuable as a commercially important forest tree."

McLaren said many foresters do not consider the species of red maple as an important timber species and may even recommend other species to manage. So losing red maples might not cause immediate concern for future profits.

Every tree will not be a tree to harvest, McLaren was quick to point out. He stressed that in most forests there are too many trees in any one location and they are too crowded.

"This situation occurs in all plants that grow, " he said. "That's why we make recommendations as to how close plants are grown in our summer gardens - too many plants will choke one another out. It's possible that some of the damaged trees were those that might not have made it to future timber harvests."

Another thing to consider is that not all trees are equal in value even if they are of the same species. McLaren said poor shape or some type of defect might be the reason.

"The bole may not be straight and there may possibly be signs of rot from previous fire or insect attack," he continued. "These trees are not considered a loss if damaged by the ice storm."

An important thing to remember is that storm-damaged limbs do not immediately affect the value of a tree. McLaren said if the extent of the damage done to the tree is to the outer ends of the crown, there is a possibility the tree is going to be harvested before it would cause damage to the main bole of the tree, which is the main part of the tree that is evaluated at the time of a timber sale.

Damaged trees may even serve other purposes, such as future homes for wildlife. Trees may have cavities appropriate for many sized mammals that often look for den trees in the forest. In many cases, insects will be drawn to the new wounds and openings in damaged trees and will attract insect-feeding birds.

McLaren stressed that not every section of a landowner's farm is highly productive timberland and that also applies to fields on any farm.

"Some farms have a higher production rate due to enriched soils," he said. "A forest responds the same way. Valuable tree species growing on the north and east-facing slopes traditionally will have more soil and moisture available to make them more valuable than trees that grow on ridge tops or on west and south-facing slopes that are heated by hot afternoon sunshine. Trees growing on the better side are the ones on which foresters should spend more time during the evaluation process."

The 2003 ice storm was extensive and wide-ranging. It created a need for landowners of timber to stop and reevaluate forest management options available to them.

McLaren emphasized the need for professional foresters to evaluate timber stand ice damage. A forester can design a plan for any harvesting or manage the clean up. He said professional loggers who carry full worker's compensation should do the clean-up work. Logging is a dangerous occupation and the effects of the recent ice storm increased the risk.

"One great advantage timber has over other agricultural crops is that damage to these stands will not deteriorate and lose more value within the next several months," McLaren said. "You do have time to have a forester come and make a thorough evaluation of your damaged timber before you make those decisions for future timber management in your woodlands."


Doug McLaren  859-257-2703