Eroded forest road due to poor planning
Non-Harvest Best Management Practices


This web site outlines a number of best management practices for forest owners to improve the condition of the woodlot without or in-between timber harvests.

The key concepts in sustaining forests between harvests is to encourage regeneration, provide habitat, reduce deer damage, and remove competing vegetation to meet your long-term goals.

Realistically, most forest owners in New York are not in a position to carry out a timber harvest. Their forest may have been high-graded in the past, leaving behind inferior and nonmerchantable timber. The forest owner may have stewardship goals that preclude any harvesting at all. Other forest owners may be in a 10 to 30 year harvesting cycle, allowing their stands to regenerate according to a silvicultural plan.

Forest conditions can be improved without harvestingThough best management practices are often applied to water quality protection during a harvest, the concept can be easily applied to forest work that does not include harvesting. The term "best management practices" implies all activities performed to improve the condition of a woodlot, often without cutting a single tree.

Forests in New York can reach a ecologically and economically valuable state with assistance from responsible forest owners. For three centuries, the impacts of human activities have made a "hands off" approach to forests impractical. Doing nothing to a woodlot may lead to undesirable conditions, like low species diversity, infestations of unwanted exotic plants, and loss of wildlife habitat.

Four issues are usually involved in non-harvest forest management: regeneration, timber stand improvement, control of exotic species, and prevention of timber theft. Regeneration is the encouragement of new and diverse seedlings and saplings in the woodlot. Timber stand improvement is the removal of selected trees to meet the goals of a stewardship plan. Control of exotic species is the monitoring and control of insects and plants that are causing ecological harm in New York forests. Finally, timber theft prevention is the way in which forest owners can thwart the removal of valuable trees from their woodlots.

Many forest owners must also monitor wildlife damage even though they attract wildlife to their woodlot.

Setting goals for YOUR woodlot
There are many ways in which woodlots can be improved. The decision about which projects a forest owner undertakes rests on their goals. All forest owners should have conscious, if not documented, goals for their forests. These desired endpoints guide short-term activities in the woodlot. Ideally, a forest owner's goals should be written down.

The following is a list of common goals sought by forest owners. Take note of which apply to you:


Collecting nuts and seeds

Cutting firewood


Growing edible mushrooms

Logging timber for income

Using trail vehicles (bike, ATV, snowmobile)

Growing forest herbs

Maple syrup production

Looking for wildlife

Building trails

Enjoying peaceful surroundings

Helping enhance the environment


Click on any of these categories of non-harvest best management practices for more information:


Reforestation / regeneration

Exotic vegetation

Wildlife & deer damage

Timber stand improvement

Timber theft

Attracting wildlife

Home | Index | Tools for Planning a Harvest | Cornell Cooperative Extension ForestryCornell Cooperative Extension helps forest owners

Please cite source: Cornell Cooperative Extension, 2004
Written by James Ochterski, CCE - Schuyler County