Uneven-age Pine Management


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Handley Forestry Services



Don and Gary Handley are consulting foresters serving private landowners in South Carolina. They are well-know for their uneven-aged management techniques for coastal plain forests, and are always happy to share their management techniques with other foresters and students. We asked Don to tell us about his experiences in forest management...



Photos from Crossett Lumber Company’s early operations (scroll down menu on left and click “Crossett Lumber Co.”) www.steaminthe woods.com

Don’s Early Years in Forestry

Forestry and the timber industry have been a part of my life for as long as 

I can remember.  I guess when sawdust and woods smoke get in your blood you are never the same again.

I grew up during the depression years on a hill farm in Drew County, Arkansas.  This is in the loblolly-shortleaf and oak–hickory hill country.  My father and I began hewing red oak cross-ties when I was about 12 years old.  When the demand for ties became very strong during the beginning of World War II, we ran a portable sawmill for quite a while.  Later we closed the mill and continued in the logging business.  Dad and I did horse logging until long after I finished High School.  I continued to work with him during the summer and other times when I was not in school. It was during these years of logging that we were introduced to the art of uneven-age forest management. 


Uneven-age Forest Management

An uneven-age pine stand managed by HFS

Wilmar, Arkansas was a small mill town in Drew, County about 15 miles from our farm.  This is where Less Pomeroy was running Ozark Badger Lumber Company.  Crossett, Arkansas was a mill town of Crossett Lumber Company in Ashley County, about 45 miles south of us.  We did some selective logging for Ozark Badger and Crossett Lumber Company. 

Crossett was a very large operation.  They owned hundreds of thousands of acres throughout south east Arkansas.  They were one of the last of the cut-out and get-out operations.  When the virgin forest was gone they began managing the second growth stands of loblolly and shortleaf pines that replaced them.  They also used uneven-age management, and were one of the pioneers of forest management in the country. 

During this time several large companies in the south were managing their land for high quality sawtimber, and using the uneven-age system.  This system ofAn uneven-age pine management needs good inventory data and management plans in order to maximize production.  Less Pomeroy (of Ozark Badger) and another partner, Julian McGowen, formed Pomeroy And McGeowen Forest Managers.  This was a large consulting firm engaged primarily in inventory cruising for management plans for lumber companies in the south. 

After I had been out of high school for a couple of years I had the opportunity to work for Pomeroy & McGowen. It was through my earlier experience logging and then cruising for some of these large companies that I saw forest management at it’s best.  This truly inspired me to want to be a forest manager.  I got my degree in forestry from Arkansas A & M College, where we had the opportunity to visit the Crossett Experiment Station and interact with Russ Reynolds and his staff. 

Recognizing that about 70% of the forest land in the south was owned by small farm operations and other private landowners Reynolds developed “management alternatives for private landowners”.  Among these were the “Good Farm Forty” and the “Poor Farm Forty”.  These two forty-acre blocks have been harvested on a regular schedule since back in the thirties.  The last I heard they were yielding well over $100.00 per acre annually.  And they have never been clearcut. 



Even-age Management

A field day hosted by HFS

Upon graduation from College I came to Florence, South Carolina to work as a service forester with the SC Forestry Commission.  For some reason the true system of uneven-age management had never caught on here.  We couldn’t advise landowners to use fire, and had no other means to prepare seed beds to establish pine in the understory.  Moreover, we could not recommend clearcutting.  Therefore as the pine stands were thinned they were taken over by off site hardwoods and other weed species.  We were running out of pine timber. 

In the early to mid 1960s several of us in the consulting forestry field and forest industry joined forces to promote forest management.  Several terms were coined at that time: “second  forest” and “third forest” referred to the fact that we were now harvesting the natural forest that re-established it’s self following the harvest of the original virgin forest.

A large effort was made to promote the establishment of America’s third forest.  This was to be a forest grown as a crop like any other crop by planting improved stock.  Our firm participated fully in this effort for a number of years.  We found it difficult to sell to our clients.  They would put off harvesting their timber often too long because they didn’t want to see a clear cut.  Also they didn’t like the idea that once harvested they were out of the timber business for a long time.  For many of the older clients this would mean they wouldn’t see another income in their life time. 

Working for the Landowners

The Johnson's- two of Don & Gary's happy clients.

We decided to go back and take another look at my old love, “uneven-age” or to put it another way, “sustained yield”.  This has proven to be an easy concept to sell.  Once a client understands that we are planning timber sales based on annual growth, and that they can make periodic timber sales while maintaining the volume of standing timber than they started with, they love it. 


We are now managing several thousand acres under this system.  Some of the stands that we have gotten fully stocked and balanced are now producing between 500 and 600 board feet per acre annually.  At today’s timber prices you can see that this is affording these clients an annual income in excess of $150.00 per acre on these stands. 


This system has become easy to establish by working in harmony with the natural system and with the use of dormant season fires. The regeneration of the next forest is an ongoing process with the seedlings in place and growing long before the overstory is harvested. To regenerate the forest this way is much less expensive than the standard clear cut and replant.


The following is record of a 45 acre tract that we have had under management for the past several years.  The first pulpwood thinning was made in 1988 when the stand was approximately 20 years old.  (We did not make that sale and do not have the exact records.)  However we were able to ascertain a very close estimate of the income. Total management costs, including sale commissions, pro-rated administration, and other direct or indirect cost since 1993 have been $9,000.00, or $20.00 per acre annually.



1988      First pulpwood thinning -------------------------------- $10,800.00

1993  Timber sale ------------------------------------------    35,367.11

1997  Timber sale ------------------------------------------    49,148.24

2003  Timber sale ------------------------------------------    40,650.00

                                                                   TOTAL GROSS INCOME   $135,965.35

                                                                   LESS MGT. COSTS                 9,000.00

                                                                   TOTAL NET INCOME         $126,965.35


This can be considered to be very typical of the average stand after it has become well established.  Once regeneration is established in the understory, this income can go on for ever.  It is interesting to note that we are now receiving an income every five years that is four to five times more than was received approximately 20 years after planting.  




You can contact Don and Gary Handley at

Handley Forestry Services in Florence, SC at