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

Timber stand improvement

This web article explains the best management practices related to tree removal intended to improve the quality of remaining trees in a forest.

Stand ready for TSI treatments"Timber stand improvement" and "timber harvesting" are two different forest management activities. In comparison to gardening, timber stand improvement is like weeding and pruning away unwanted vegetation to let vegetables or flowers flourish, whereas timber harvesting is more like the late season gathering of mature produce.

Timber stand improvement, usually abbreviated "TSI," is a periodic cutting made in an immature stand of trees to stimulate the growth of the trees that remain. It is a challenging, yet rewarding activity for active forest owners. The three standard treatments in TSI are

1. Thinning
2. Cull removal
3. Juvenile tree release

In many hardwood forests, it is appropriate to combine two or all three of these treatments.


Best management practices for timber stand improvement (or BMPs for TSI)

Find out if your woodlot is appropriate for TSI.
Because TSI implies that your woodlot is destined to produce merchantable timber, it will not apply to all forestland. TSI may not be feasible when a stand of trees is too young. In this case, superior trees are not old enough to express their genetic qualities. In the same way, TSI is not feasible if the stand already contains mostly mature sawtimber. Forests dominated by trees with poorly formed stems will be difficult to improve. Finally, stands containing nonmerchantable species like aspen, hornbeam, beech, cottonwood, willow, or poplar will not be improved with TSI.

TSI removal marked by a professional foresterHire a professional forester to prescribe a TSI treatment.
The best way to determine if a woodlot is ready for TSI is to have a professional forester assess the stand, noting species, size, and density. Contact a DEC forester or hire a reputable consulting forester to cruise the woodlot. They will provide you with a written description of the status of the forest, subdivided where necessary into separate stands. Ask whether and what kinds of TSI work would be appropriate. Some forest owners should accompany the forester back into the woodlot for a more detailed explanation of releasing, thinning, pruning, and cull removals.

Plan for good utilization of TSI removals.
Forest owners can make very good use of the trees removed during TSI. Before the trees are cut, consider whether the removal will provide a barrier for deer, a source of quality firewood, a base for forest farming, or simply decompose in the woodlot, returning the nutrients to the forest soil. Sometimes the trees can be stockpiled for use in erosion control projects in other areas of a large forest.

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