Selective timber harvesting is a forest management practice that ensures economic benefits to the forest owner as well as to the environment. Several different timber harvesting methods often depend on this task, but there are three types of selective timber harvest methods that we’ve highlighted in this post. 

In this article, you will learn about the three types of selective timber harvest: clear-cutting, shelterwood, and selection harvesting (also known as group selection). While each of the three selective timber harvest approaches varies and is applied to specific forest types, they all have a few things in common. 

  • Each of the selective timber harvest methods provides wood fiber for numerous everyday products. 
  • These selective timber harvest methods encourage the natural regeneration of forests. 
  • Selective timber harvest methods enhance the future forest’s economic, social, and ecological values.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the three selective timber harvest methods. 


Clear-cutting is one of the most widely used timber harvest methods in Northern Maine. The technique involves the removal of all the trees in an area. The technique is most effective for the types of species that require full sunlight to thrive.  When you’re growing spruce and fir, patch cutting, used correctly, can maximize the wind resistance of the individual stands and allow for reliable, cyclical harvests.

Since an abundance of light produces exceptional plant growth and seeds and young plants respond well to the warmer ground, clear-cutting may be the best harvesting method for species, such as paper birch, aspen, maple, pitch pine, spruce, fir, and white pine. 

An interesting aspect of clear-cutting is that nature will automatically do so if humans don’t harvest the forests. The outbreak of fires, insects, and natural disasters like floods are common ways nature implements clear-cutting of the forests. 

However, the economic losses from these natural events are considered negative and can be avoided through clear-cutting as it makes an ecologically and economically viable way to reduce the negative effects of natural catastrophes while accommodating the ecological requirements of the forests with species that thrive on full sunlight. 

Selection Harvest 

The other extreme of selective timber harvest practices is selection harvest. It is the most complicated and most often misunderstood system of selective harvest as it involves the evaluation of individual trees or stands of trees before the harvesting process begins. 

In a forest, some stands of trees may become overly dense, which increases the risk of disease outbreaks, and that’s when human intervention is necessary. The process involves removing the higher-risk trees while leaving the stands of trees with higher growth potential. 

As a result, the canopy has partial openings that allow for more sunlight and other resources from the soil that the tree needs to grow and thrive. Once the older and denser trees are removed, the younger trees’ health and eventually replace the older trees that have already been harvested. 

While this type of selective timber harvest may seem like the most natural approach for harvesting and forest management, it requires close attention. The concern is when the wrong stands of trees are selected for harvest. With the inappropriate selection of trees, there can be a serious setback to the forest.  This is why isn’t so important to have your harvest closel managed by a qualified forester.


The third type of selective timber harvest is known as the shelterwood system, which lies between the two extremes of clear-cutting and selection harvest. 

The process involves the removal of the parent forest in several stages. Each stage of forest removal establishes optimal environmental conditions that allow for tree regeneration. The process also involves nursing the regeneration of the trees to a point where the remaining part of the parent forest can be harvested. 

Final Words 

The idea that timber harvesting is “bad” is not completely true because timber is a renewable natural resource which is why it has the edge over other raw materials. Moreover, all trees, whether or not harvested, eventually die. Therefore, there is a need to manage forests effectively so we can look forward to healthier forests that produce more of all the values we look forward to from forests. 

To learn more about logging and land management in Maine, get in touch with William A. Day Jr. & Sons. Our team of dedicated and experienced loggers lives up to maintaining the company’s tradition of sustainable forests for a brighter future.