The Silvicultural Practices at Hansen Woodland Farm

Ponderosa Pine at Hansen Woodland Farm Background: The majority of the 40 acres on our woodland farm consists of Ponderosa Pine stands... with parts very overgrown and densely populated. While the forestland has been logged in the past, it had been untouched for years prior to our purchasing.

Soil Conditions: The vast majority of our soil is a dry, sandy loam -- perfect for growing Ponderosa Pines.

Silviculture Goal: We want to strategically work our way through the entire 40 acres, creating a healthy and complex forest that includes a mix of several generations of trees. Tree vigor throughout the forestland is the essential goal.

A healthy forest is one that is balanced -- and one in which the trees are receiving the light, water, and nutrients they need to grow and reproduce. Unhealthy forests are susceptible to disease, insect invasion (bark beetle), and stunted/deformed trees.

Because we live in a dry climate surrounded by trees, part of our work is also designed to remove excess fuel -- wildfire ladders.

Silviculture Prescription: Our focus is on greatly reducing forest density by a careful, multi-year approach to thinning (in an attempt to avoid thinning shock). We are also pruning back remaining trees... and where it makes sense, logging some co-dominant and intermediate trees -- thinning mostly from below.

Thinning Strategy: Following our goal of a complex, multigenerational forest, we use a variable density thinning strategy that involves cutting trees of all ages, starting first with unhealthy or damaged trees, followed by density reduction -- thinning lightly over a period of several years to a decade. While we do not believe in complete uniformity, our goal is to thin to a level of DBH (diameter at breast height -- 5') + 8, while using the heuristic of thinning so that crowns are not touching. (Overall goal for mature tree stands -- separation of 13 to 25 feet, dependent on issues such as diversity, complexity, and silviculture objectives.)

Pruning Strategy: Our goal with pruning is multifold: we want to reduce fire fuel ladders, increase forest visibility and path/trail access, provide more airspace for birds, and encourage understory vegetation growth for wildlife.

Forest Regeneration Strategy: Because we plan no clear-cutting or other deep thinning/cutting methods, we believe in allowing nature to mostly dictate regeneration -- seedlings that develop naturally from nearby parent trees. Another reason we thin slowly -- and over a multi-year period -- is because most conifers only produce good seed crops in 3-5 year intervals, and want to make sure we have continual repopulation of the forest.

Logging Strategy: Because our main focus is on forest health and vigor, logging is mainly a tactic to help accomplish that goal. Depending on the market for logs, our goal would be to breakeven or make a small amount of money on the sale. Our goal of thinning from below when logging is to log smaller (intermediate) and surplus larger trees (co-dominants).

Cost-Share Strategy: We have been lucky to receive cost-share funding both from the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for both our Forest Stewardship Plan, as well as for forest health thinning and pruning work. We are also expecting to receive an EQIP cost-share grant from the U.S Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

For definitions of the terms used in our Silvicultural Practices, please check out our Forestry, Forest Practices, Silviculture Glossary for Beginning Foresters.

Forestry, Forest Practices, Silviculture Key Online Resources

Forestry Courses, Handbooks, and Publications:

  • Forest Stewardship University from Washington State University Extension -- a great collection of courses (free, or low priced) on forestry, stewardship, and more.
  • Silviculture for Washington Family Forests -- a free pdf.
  • Assessing Tree Health -- a free pdf.
  • Backyard Forest Stewardship in Eastern Washington -- a free pdf.
  • Forest Ecology in Washington -- a free pdf.
  • Wildlife Ecology and Forest Habitat -- a free pdf.
  • Thinning -- a free pdf.
  • A Primer for Timber Harvesting -- a free pdf.
  • Governmental Agencies Offering Forestry Assistance:

  • Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Forset Service - Cooperative Forestry

  • Hansen Woodland Farm Founder Dr. Randall Hansen Authored by Hansen Woodland Farm owner, Dr. Randall Hansen. Besides a passion for forestry, Dr. Hansen is also founder of Quintessential Careers, the Web's most comprehensive career site, as well as CEO of, a network of sites with expert advice, tools, and resources to empower people to improve their lives. Visit his personal Website or check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

    Hansen Woodland Farm sign