Partial harvesting of hardwood sawtimber in Kentucky and Tennessee, 2002–2014
Partial harvesting is the predominant but not exclusive cutting treatment applied to the hardwood forests of Kentucky and Tennessee. Hardwood harvest in Kentucky showed a slight downward trend from 2006 to 2014, with most of the volume harvested in partial logging operations. Tennessee did not show this same downward trend, and the amount of hardwood volume harvested from 2002 to 2014 remained relatively steady with the exception of slight decreases during the economic downturn of 2007 to 2009. In these partial harvests, less than half of the stands’ volume was removed. The tree species being cut and utilized were those typically considered commercially valuable species, in particular white oak (Quercus alba), yellowpoplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), and chestnut oak (Quercus montana). Trees were increasingly likely to be left in partially harvested stands as their tree grade decreased in quality, regardless of the tree species. Tree grade 1 trees, the highest quality, were the most likely to be harvested. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data show that the lower-graded trees are much more likely (6-7 times as likely for a tree grade 5 tree) to be left in the stand after partial harvesting. This reinforces previously published observations that the relative proportion of sawlog volume in higher-grade trees has shown some declines overall in these States, indicating an increase in the proportion of sawlog volume that is in lower-graded trees. The hope is that this study will spur further investigation into hardwood sawlog quality trends in Kentucky and Tennessee and careful consideration of the drivers behind them.