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Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association 



"When I needed to think or was really upset, generally I climbed a tree."
-- Ian Frazier
2 field days
coming soon!
The Woodland Owner Mentorship Program will be sponsoring two free field days in the coming weeks. 

The first, organized by Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute, will be held 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, 29 August, at Dave and Sheila Thomas' woodlot in North Range, Digby County. 

Dave Thomas

On Sunday, 26 Sept., NSWOOA will be hosting a field day with Robert and Sheila Frame at 1329 Dryden Lake Road, south of Stellarton, in Pictou County. We'll have more in the next issue of Legacy. 

These events are part of a program funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources that creates opportunities for family forest owners to learn from each other, and gives experienced landowners a chance to share their knowledge.

Each field day aims to enhance information provided in the NSDNR's Woodlot Management Home Study Series. The tour at the Thomas' woodlot will focus on the modules covering "Thinning for Value" and "Small Scale Harvesting Equipment."

Dave and Sheila own a 192-hectare (475-acre) woodlot in North Range. Their land is dominated by beautiful, healthy red spruce. Dave's careful selection of trees for harvest has increased the health and value of the woodlot, maintaining an almost-continuous canopy that benefits wildlife and longer-lived, more valuable tree species. The woodlot also includes about 4 ha. of Christmas trees and a maple sugar bush.

In the past, Dave operated a sawmill with partner Harold Alexander under the name North Range Forest Products, located only a few minutes away from the woodlot. Dave continues to benefit from the mill where his son, Brian, has now taken his place.

The Thomas family has lived on the land since the mid-1800s, allowing Dave to present rare insights into the history of the property. The woodlot was inherited by Dave and Sheila from his parents, Alan and Phyllis Thomas, making them the sixth generation on the land. Dave has been formally managing the woodlot since 1978.

The Thomas' sustainable management practices have passed the test of time, and their main goal for the land is to maintain healthy forests with natural regeneration. His quiet passion for the woods and sharp eye for signs of stress to forest health make him a woodlot management mentor worth paying careful attention to!

The field day will be spent both in the woods and at the North Range Forest Products mill. Lunch will be provided.

Space is limited, so advance registration is required. Call soon!

For more information, contact Jane Barker of Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute at 902-682-2371 or via email here.
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NSWOOA is committed to being your best source for information about sustainable forestry. We do not offer silviculture or harvesting services; our interest is only in the protection and enhancement of the native forest ecosystems of Nova Scotia.


Truly sustainable management requires that all the values of our woodlands -- ecological, social, and economic -- be preserved for future generations. That's a complex undertaking.


If you have questions about sustainable management of the Acadian Forest, we want to hear from you! Give us a call at:




August 2015
A Beginner's Guide to
Working in the Woodlot
By Christie Verstraten
Research and Program Assistant

There are few better ways to get to know your land then doing some of your own silviculture work. Aside from being a rewarding experience, it allows you to become more connected to your land. There's nothing like the feeling of doing a silviculture treatment on a stand in your woodlot, and then going back several years later to see what a difference you've made in the characteristics and productivity of the site. Working in the woods can also do wonders for your physical and mental health.
If you need some silviculture work done on your woodlot, why not try it yourself? There are several treatments you can do yourself that don't require heavy machinery or rigorous training, and that also may qualify for silviculture funding. After all, who doesn't love a day in the woods?
Precommercial Thinning
Done in younger stands, the point of a precommercial thinning (PCT) is to reduce the number of saplings so that preferred trees get more light, nutrients and space to grow. A PCT also makes the stand much easier to manage and harvest in the future, and allows the trees to grow faster than they would if they faced more competition. Normally, trees are thinned to a spacing of 1.8-2.4 metres (6-8 feet). To qualify for silviculture funding from the Association for Sustainable Forestry (ASF), softwoods must be 2-7 metres high and hardwoods must be 6-9 metres.
PCTs are done using a clearing or thinning saw, which looks like a string trimmer (also known as a whipper-snipper or weed-whacker) with a circular saw blade on the end. The saw has a harness that is worn by the operator to distribute the weight of the machine, making it easier to carry and handle. Stihl and Husqvarna both make excellent clearing saws and have many distributors around the province. For safety gear, you should have a hard hat, eye protection, ear protection, gloves, and boots. Wearing long sleeves and pants, as well as having a cell phone, first aid kit and fire extinguisher on hand, are also recommended. Clearing saws are fairly safe to use since the blade is so far away from you, but you should always be mindful of where your blade is and make sure you have complete control of the saw. To use the saw, move in a sweeping motion through your stand and thin around healthy and desirable trees you wish to keep while keeping the spacing mentioned above. For more information about pre-commercial thinning, click here.

Crop Tree Pruning
Crop tree pruning is removing the lower limbs of a tree to minimize knots in your timber and promote growth in the stem rather than the branches. If done properly, the trees heal quickly and remain healthy. 

NSWOOA Director Matt Miller is featured in the Association for Sustainable Forestry's video on crop tree pruning.
(Screen shot courtesy of ASF)

This treatment is typically done with a pruning saw on an adjustable pole. Unlike typical hand saws, the teeth on a pruning saw are designed to cut on the pull stroke. Pruning saws are a hand tool and are relatively inexpensive. Safety equipment recommended for this treatment are a hard hat, eye protection and gloves.

The first step in pruning your stand is to walk through with a roll of flagging tape and flag all the trees you wish to prune. Your crop trees should be higher than 8 metres (26 ft.) and no more than 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter. Pruning technique is very important to avoid unnecessary damage to your crop trees. For proper technique, watch the ASF's instructional video here.

Tree Planting
Tree planting is often a good option for stands that don't have enough natural regeneration coming up. Both softwood and hardwood seedlings can be planted, though woodlot owners often have to fence around young planted hardwoods to keep deer and rabbits from browsing on them. The species you decide to plant should depend on your site conditions (ex. wet/dry, fertile/nutrient-poor, open/closed canopy) and what your personal goals are. Red spruce is an excellent commercial tree, but you may also wish to plant trees for biodiversity, wildlife habitat, or personal aesthetics. There are several tree nurseries around the province where seedlings are available.
The best tool for planting containerized tree seedlings is called a pottiputki, which is essentially a long tube with an angled trap door at the bottom. To use the pottiputki, push the end into the ground where you would like a containerized seedling to be planted and step on the lever, which opens the trap door and creates a little hole in the soil. Then drop the seedling into the tube, remove the pottiputki, and press the release at the top to reclose the trap door.
Larger, bare-root seedlings often are planted with a dibble bar. Just sink the dibble into the ground, rock the handle to make a hole, drop in the seedling, and kick the hole closed with your heel. Once you have some practice, tree planting can be very quick and efficient, as well as being an excellent opportunity to go for a walk in the woods. To carry around your tree seedlings, you can either use a special harness that tree containers can hook onto, or put your seedlings in a shoulder bag that hangs at your side.
For more information about planting, click here.

While the treatments described above are relatively safe and low-risk, it is important be vigilant about personal safety and the safety of those around you. If you have any questions about safety, or the appropriate use and maintenance of your equipment and tools, always ask an expert. The Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education has published 'The Forest Professional: Guidelines for the Stewards of Tomorrow's Forests,' an excellent resource detailing appropriate equipment use and safety measures used by the forest industry. An electronic copy can be found here.
Working on your own land can be an exceptionally rewarding and relaxing experience for many small private woodlot owners. It allows you to get to know your woodlot better and take a more active role in the management of your property, as well as being great exercise. Enjoy!
Useful Links

Lucky landowner wins chainsaw
Garnet Daye (left) accepts a Husqvarna 550XPG chainsaw from Robert Monk of M.C Power Equipment in Truro.

Garnet was one of more than 330 people who tried our free, online forest landowner goals self-assessment in the nine months that ended 30 June 2015. He works as a carpenter on the Eastern Shore during the week, and is restoring the family farm and woodlot in Bayhead near Tatamagouche on the weekends.

The tool helps landowners to set priorities for their woodlands, and also to request help from NSWOOA in achieving them. M-C Power Equipment and Husqvarna generously donated the $810 chainsaw to be awarded to one lucky winner from among the landowners who tried our self-assessment.

NSWOOA will offer another valuable prize when a new version of the tool is available later this year. Until then, a link to the original assessment can be found on our website,, which has the Internet's largest collection of resources on Acadian Forest management.
NSWOOA| PO Box 823, Truro, NS B2N 5G6 |