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How to Evaluate and Manage Storm-Damaged Forest Areas

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Manage to Reduce
Pest-Caused Losses

Storm damage often increases the risk of pest outbreak by weakening the defenses of host trees Pest infestations will not develop unless suitable host trees are available, so every effort should be made to remove concentrations of damaged, susceptible host trees. A well-planned and executed salvage operation can greatly increase a stand's resistance to pest attacks. To ensure effective salvage, we recommend the following approach:

  1. Act quickly. Prompt salvage will help avoid losses from degrade and subsequent pest-caused mortality.
  2. Measure the extent of the damage carefully before deciding on a salvage operation. A number of factors such as stand age, species, stocking, and management objectives will need to be considered.
  3. Salvage the most severely damaged timber first. Concentrate on the pine stands, because they are more susceptible than hardwoods to pest outbreaks. On deep sandy soil when a residual stand is to be left, fresh stumps created during the salvage operation should be treated appropriately to prevent the spread of annosum root rot (call your local Extension Forester for assistance). During salvage, avoid damage to residual trees.
  4. Complete salvage promptly, and in one continuous operation. Bark beetle populations are more likely to build up in pine slash and move into healthy trees if logging operations are prolonged or interrupted for periods of a month or more. (When salvage is delayed, a helpful guide is available for utilization of beetle-killed pine trees based on appearance. See table 2.)
  5. Follow the practices listed below to ensure that the residual material (slash) will dry quickly. Bark beetle infestations will not build up in dry material.
    • Cut all logs from seriously damaged trees to the minimum merchantable size and remove them from the area.

    • Lop and scatter all harvesting slash and tops into open areas when possible.

    • Scatter large accumulations of slash away from the bases of residual trees, and into direct sunlight if possible.

    • Sever downed trees from roots that could keep them alive.

  6. Inspect large pines for pitch flow. Many large, green, standing pines may be unsuitable for veneer, poles, or lumber because of internal splintering, and separation of the wood fibers. Often, the only external evidence of such damage is pitch flow where the bark has been broken.
  7. Rate species for resistance to insects and diseases (table 3) when planning which trees to leave in the stand after a salvage operation.
  8. Consider deducting storm-damage losses on income tax returns. Landowners can secure advice from local foresters, accountants, attorneys, or Internal Revenue Service agents concerning deductable losses.
  9. Check for pest activity after salvage operations are finished. Make periodic surveys, either aerial or ground, of the residual stands to check for pest activity. These surveys may be required for up to 2 years. Trees that are turning yellow, have pitch tubes on the bark, or red boring dust around the base are probably affected either by insects or diseases, or both. These trees should be considered for removal.

Bark beetles often kill weakened trees

Bark beetles often kill weakened trees.


Table 2 - Utilization guidelines for beetle-killed pine trees 1
Product Class A
Trees with needles or no needles, but twigs attached.
Class B
Trees with no needles, most twigs and branches lost, and some broken tops.
Appearance lumber2 Not recommended Not recommended Blue stain prohibits use
Dimension lumber2 (structural) Can be used with caution Not recommended Should be kiln dried to prevent emergence of secondary insects. Low moisture content may dull saws and chipper knives faster than with sound wood and may require milder kiln schedule. Do not use where toughness is important.
Decorative lumber boards an paneling Can be used Can be used Should be kiln dried
Posts, poles, piling Not recommended Not recommended Toughness and preservative treatability may be highly variable
Plywood Can be used Not recommended Adhesives and gluing practices may have to be adjusted
Hardboard, particle-board, medium density fiberboard Can be used Can be used Low moisture content may affect some production schedules. Should be mixed with sound wood.
Pulp Can be used Can be used Blue stain and low moisture content may affect pulping process and chemical or energy requirements. Should be mixed with sound wood, particularly where strength is important
Fuelwood Can be used Can be used Low moisture content increases heat value

1For more information on utilization of beetle-killed trees, see "A Guide for Using Beetle-Killed Southern Pine Based on Tree Appearance", by Michael P. Levi, USDA Agriculture Handbook 572.

2For more information on economics of producing lumber from beetle-killed pines, see "A Mill Operator's Guide to Profit on Beetle-Killed Southern Pine", by S.A. Sinclair, USDA Agriculture Handbook 555.

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