Regeneration Openings – a Forest Landowner’s

By Brian J. MacGowan and John P. Stambaugh


Recently, we sat down with Mr. Wendell Leedy who owns 142 acres in Jackson Township, Green County Mr. Leedy’s primary management objectives are growing quality timber and secondarily retaining a property for recreation. After acquiring the property in 1990, Mr. Leedy contacted the District Forester who advised him that some regeneration openings would benefit his woods. A local logger created three regeneration openings during November of 1990 through April of 1991. The openings were approximately 4 ac, 1.5 ac, and 0.75 ac in size. Mr. Leedy has also constructed about three miles worth of trails large enough that a small tractor can be driven over them. Several bridges span runs and ravines on the property.

What were your initial thoughts when you first heard about regeneration openings and doing them on your property?

Well, I thought, “Well, this is going to be interesting,” because not having a whole lot of experience in forestry prior to that, I thought, “Is this really going to work?” What am I going to see as it proceeds to grow? I was aware and I accepted the explanation that if you don’t do this, you’re not going to get enough sunlight in these areas to promote a reasonable amount of regeneration of the small plants that are left or the seeds that are in the ground.

Did you envision them as large as they were?

Well, I had no basis to think about the size. And it was really based on the forester’s recommendations regarding the size. The forester more or less picked the areas and picked the size. I was wondering about the size, but I think they chose the size based on what else was left that would be surrounding these areas.

Can you describe at all some changes you observed in that area in terms of maybe wildlife use or tree regeneration and anything like that?An example of one of Mr. Leedy’s regeneration openings and what they looked like this summer.

The regeneration, I was surprised, turned out very well since it was done and completed in 1991. In about 2011, the regeneration had grown to the extent that I realized that it needed to be thinned. It was very thick with yellow poplar, black cherry, red oak, and white oak. So I went in there and did a thinning based on the concept of what I wanted to retain. I chose the trees to keep based upon looking at the crown and trying to release the area around the selected trees that I wanted to keep (cherry, oaks) – release the crown so that the ones we wanted to keep would get sunlight. Well, that was the concept of pick what you wanted to keep, release everything that’s around it within an area that would shade the crown, and thereby promoting the growth of what you wanted.

The presence of wildlife has changed with the respect to the ruffed grouse. It was a reasonable area-- at the time we bought the property, it was a reasonable area for ruffed grouse and they like the thinner forest areas and they like the openings. Now, since things have closed in, the ruffed grouse have disappeared. They are no longer there.

Would you reaffirm the use of this practice to neighboring woodland owners?

Yeah, it’s one of the things that a woodland owner should educate himself on and follow those practices. At the time we bought the property, I became a member of the Indiana Forestry and Woodland Owners Association and have been a member since then. For a period of 10 or 12 years, I was one of the officers in that organization.

But I got to say, the results are remarkable. They’re doing very well. Like I said, they were thinned in 2011. Now in 2017, we’re driving up on a time where in the next few years they’re going to need to be thinned again.

If you had to do it again would you do anything differently?

No, I don’t think so. No. No, I haven’t had a major timber sale. I had a small timber sale in 2000. That was conducted by John Stambaugh and several years ago, he and I did a cruise over the whole property to get his recommendation regarding the next timber sale. Now we’re three, four, five years away from the next timber sale.

Any thoughts about doing future regeneration openings going forward?

No, I don’t. At my age and getting on to my limited ability to do much of that work anymore, no, I haven’t had any thoughts about additional ones.

Is there anything that’s surprised you the most as you’ve observed the openings over the years?

I’m surprised at the rate at which they regenerated. Not only the rate at which they grew, but with all of the different species that grew, and the quantity that grew. Prior to the first thinning, it was thick. It was very thick. Opening up the area to sunlight proved a real benefit to promoting new growth and continued growth.

Brian MacGowan is an Extension Wildlife Specialist with Purdue University’s Department of Forestry. He also has served as secretary and editor for the Woodland Steward since 2008. John Stambaugh is a consulting forester. He represents INSAF on the Woodland Steward Institute board.