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Written By Jack Van Buren.

Posted on December 2nd, 2021.

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Guest author Jack Van Buren has a road-side chat with a logger to learn more about what loggers do for a living and what goes on during a timber harvest. 

The other day on my way to work I noticed a guy on a piece of equipment pulling trees out of the woods:


Being the curious guy that I am, I had to know more. So, I decided to stop by on my way home from work. Below is a summary of my conversation with the logger:

Is this your own land?  


Well, how come you are here?  

The person that owns this land wanted some trees cut, so they hired me to do that.  

OK. How much land do they own?  

Hey, you ask a lot of questions! My turn to ask. Who are you?

Just a curious passerby named Jack.   

OK. I am Sam Woodsman. Good to meet you. How much do you know about logging?  

Not much at all.

Got it. Well, the owner has about 50 acres. I have cut trees here twice before over the last 30 years.

How many trees do you cut?

I’ve got a list right here. The forester marked 383 sawtimber trees, 211 firewood trees and 134 cull trees.   

That’s a lot of trees! What is a forester?

They are the professionals that mark what trees should get taken out.

So, what are you?

I am a professional logger. I cut the trees down and pull them out of the woods. Earlier you remarked about the number of trees to be cut. In this case, it works out to about 15 trees per acre.

Tell me more about the different types of trees marked by the forester.

Sawtimber trees gets turned into boards or lumber. Sawtimber is my moneymaker. On the other hand, firewood trees are just that … “firewood”. They are low value and after pulling them out of the woods, it is hard to make much of a profit. They are poor quality, like weeds in your garden. Cull trees are trees that are mostly rotten. I let cull trees lie in the woods, or some are left standing to give birds and mammals a place to live or raise their young.  

How many total trees are there in an acre? 

Depends on how big the trees are. In a more mature woods like this, about 75 trees per acre.

So, you are cutting about 1/5thof the trees. How often can you do that and still have a forest?

It depends on how fast the trees grow. Usually about every 15 years, the trees that are left will fill in the open spaces and become crowded. When this happens, their growth slows, and this is a good time to thin them out again.  

Can you do that forever?

Not unless you cut enough trees to let more light in and get enough young trees growing up into the canopy. If enough of them escape getting eaten by deer, or choked out by invasives, then you can keep the woods growing decade after decade and century after century.

Thanks for the education.

You bet. I like helping folks understand about their woods, but I best get back to work.


In this photo, the bulldozer operator just finished dragging (skidding) three sawtimber stems from the stump to the landing area, where they will be further processed (bucked) into sawlogs and loaded onto on-highway trucks headed for the mill.

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