Financial Incentives Offered to Encourage Southern Forestland Owners to Complete First Tree Thinning

University of Arkansas Forester Joe Friend said in a recent news release that forestland owners can get paid to complete their first tree thinning. The program is part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service initiative to help prevent the spread of the southern pine beetles—the most damaging insect pest in the eastern U.S.

“As a forest stand grows, it needs periodic thinning to maintain plenty of growing room, which allows the trees to get enough moisture and nutrients,” Friend said. “Most thinning operations are income-producing. However, the first thinning doesn’t generate much money per acre, so some landowners neglect to complete this important step.”

Friend noted that the southern pine beetle is only about the size of a grain of rice, but it can devastate acres of pine forest if conditions are right.

“Southern pine beetles, like all bark beetles, bore through the bark of trees and lay their eggs in the cambium layer,” he said. “After the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the cambium layer making S-shaped galleries under the bark and cutting off the tree’s nutrient and moisture supply.”

Friend added that healthy pine trees are able to protect themselves from bark beetle attacks by producing a sticky resin called “pitch,” which floods beetle entry holes and stops the invasion. However, trees that are stressed by overcrowding or drought may not be able to produce enough pitch to fight off a bark beetle attack. “This is why it’s so important that forestland owners thin their tree stands regularly,” he said. “This will help ensure the health of the forest and prevent the spread of the southern pine beetle.”

To encourage landowners to complete their first thinning in a timely matter, they can receive incentive payments through the Southern Pine Beetle Prevention Program. In addition to the revenue they receive for their harvested timber, they will be paid $50 per acre through the program.

For harvests of less than 40 acres, the program will also pay the logger a $2,000 bonus. This is to offset the expense of moving logging equipment to small acreages that do not generate as much income as larger areas.

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Forestland owners can get paid to complete first tree thinning