Ask the Steward

Question: Last year I had some timber cut from my woods. They did a pretty good job overall, but the logger left the tops laying all over. What should I do with them?

Answer: Tree tops after a harvest can be rather unsightly, but in many ways are more beneficial to the woods if they are left behind by the logger. The tops can be utilized for firewood, or simply left to decay and returned their stored nutrients and carbon (organic matter) to the forest soil. In the meantime they will provide excellent habitat to a large number of forest organisms, herptiles and other wildlife. Tree tops should not be left in flowing streams where they may cause debris dams, flood problems or streambank erosion.

In visually sensitive areas tops can be cut for firewood, or lopped so they lay closer to the ground. Most tops will decay in 3-5 years and will be unusable for firewood in only 1-3 years depending on species. You can also create wildlife brushpiles by stacking tree top material over a large log or tree stump. Build the pile with large material on the bottom to allow for some open den or escape space for wildlife. Creating a few piles is a lot of work, but a good project to involve the family for a day in the woods. Using a chainsaw? Be safe and demonstrate! Equip yourself and teach safety by wearing proper gloves, chaps, eye and ear protection. Boots and a hardhat too! I love my hardhat with a face shield and built-in ear muffs. In the end- tree tops aren’t so bad when you view them differently.

Question: I love my woods, am an avid hiker and was excited to learn that Indiana has some premier hiking trails- including a 60 miler on the State Forestry.

Answer: Trails! What a great way to experience the woods and get a workout at the same time. For those who enjoy the challenge of long distance trails there are over 20 hiking and backpacking trails in Indiana at least 10 miles in length on DNR and Hoosier National Forest lands. This includes the Knobstone Trail- most often referred to as the KT. At 60 miles it is Indiana’s longest foot path and traverses four DNR properties. The KT begins near Borden, IN at the Deam Lake State Recreation Area (a DNR Forestry property), then winds North through Clark State Forest, Elk Creek Fish & Wildlife Area and then up through Jackson-Washington State Forest where it currently ends at the Spurgeon Hollow Lake parking lot. The trail can also be accessed at a trailhead in Washington County’s Delaney Park. It is a rough and rugged trail traversing Indiana’s hills, hollow and knobs. While short sections near some trailheads can make for a pleasurable day hike, the KT is considered a backpack trail and often used by hikers training for the challenge of the Appalachian Trail. As the trail works its way through the working lands of the State Forest, hikers will experience diverse forests, great changes in elevation, vistas and solitude. An interesting point for many is the section crossing through 2012 Henryville tornado which downed over 500 acres of forest near the high point of ‘Round Knob’. For more information on the KT visit and for Indiana’s lost distance trails