Environmental Leadership Center
Warren Wilson College
Campus Box 6323
P.O. Box 9000
Asheville, NC 28815-9000
Please refer comments or questions about this website to Ellen Querin.
The Warren Wilson College Forest comprises over 640 acres and is an integral part of the community’s sustainability. The mixed-use management of the forest helps the college to realize environmental, social, and economic aspects of sustainable forestry. Four objectives identified in the Forest Management Plan are prioritized in this order; protection of forest resources, use of forest resources for education, maintenance of the aesthetic environment, optimization of forest products for use by the community or for sale.
To learn more about our mixed-use objectives see links below:
Protection of Forest Resources
The forests of Warren Wilson College have a significant presence of exotic invasive species. Populations of these species can in many instances reduce the biodiversity of flora and fauna, cause mortality in timber, and the loss of many ecological and economic benefits the forest provides. Methods currently in use to control the spread of these species include mechanical and chemical control. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan will be written to identify innovative and effective methods for controlling these species that could reduce our use of chemical control.
Silvicultural practices we employ to enhance the forest resources include thinning from below, thinning from above, and group selection. In thinning from below we are removing trees that are in the understory. This type of thinning would also be known as pre-commercial thinning when these trees are too small to process on our sawmill. In thinning from above we are removing trees that are in the canopy. This is also known as crop tree management. In group selection patch cuts are conducted where we harvest multiple trees from an area. The reasons for these practices include increasing diversity of species in the stand, reducing competition for light and nutrients, encouraging shade intolerant species, creating wildlife habitat, increasing hard and soft mast, improving timber quality and value, and altering succession. Trees that have reached maturity are harvested using either single-tree or group selection practices to encourage the natural regeneration of uneven-aged stands. In this way stands that have been damaged due to past silvicultural practices may be restored.
In prescribed burning the forest is intentionally set on fire in a controlled manner. This is done to reduce fuel loads in the forest that, if burned naturally, could result in a catastrophic fire, control exotic invasive plants, increase wildlife habitat, and modify the species composition in a forest stand.
We collect seeds of native tree species that are under-represented in our forest and grow seedlings in our nursery. These are planted out in the forest. Reasons for selecting species include increasing hard and soft mast, increasing species diversity, and habitat restoration.
Maintenance of the Aesthetic Environment
Over 17 miles of trails are maintained for access into the stands. These trails are excellent for hiking and some allow mountain biking. We keep the trails clear of vegetative growth and woody debris. Water bars are installed to direct water off of the path in ways that minimize erosion.
Optimization of Forest Products
Trees that have reached maturity are harvested in a cut-to-length system using chainsaws and skidded with a team of Belgian draft horses. Trees are felled with precision felling techniques that minimize damage to the residual stand. Limbing and bucking is done to maximize the utilization of products and return nutrients to the soil quickly. Skid trails are carefully planned so as to minimize erosion. Draft horses utilizing a log arch minimize compaction to the stand.
Logs are converted to lumber with a portable bandsaw. The thin kerf of the bandsaw minimizes the amount of wood that is wasted as sawdust and allows us to work with the smaller diameter logs that thinning produces. Slabs are chipped into mulch to be used on campus and the sawdust is utilized on campus for a variety of functions. The lumber is carefully stacked in a drying shed and allowed to air dry. Local businesses are involved in dry kilning and processing our lumber into various finished goods such as flooring and trim.
Firewood is produced from bolts generated by arborist work on campus, thinnings, harvests, and trail clearing. Firewood is split by hand and with a hydraulic wood splitter. After splitting the firewood is stacked in racks as cords and allowed to cure. The firewood is used to heat campus buildings, distributed to staff and faculty, used in fire circles, and used to bake bread and roast hogs.
We use by-products of our thinnings to cultivate edible mushrooms. White oak poles are inoculated with shiitake spawn and are then soaked and racked. As the logs are consumed by the spawn the mushroom emerges from the log. These are harvested and sold in the market conducted by the Garden crew.