Intermediate Stand Treatments

Intermediate Stand Treatment Photograph

Intermediate stand treatments are forest management activities that take place in young, middle-aged, and mature woodlands, and often incorporate the selective cutting or removal of trees, shrubs, brush, and woody vines in order to enhance current stand conditions and future desired outcomes. Intermediate treatments are commonly prescribed by professional foresters to improve species composition and wildlife habitat; regulate stand density; increase mast production; enhance timber quality and forest health; and promote and establish desirable advance regeneration. While designing your intermediate management treatments, remember to consider wildlife foot plots, brush piles, water sources, escape cover, and cavity and den trees. As a reminder, please protect your woodland from livestock grazing, wildfire, and invasive/exotic species.

Crop Tree Release

Crop Tree Release or crop tree management is a planned treatment whereby a predetermined set of selected “crop trees” are identified in the forest and “released” via the removal of adjacent trees whose crowns directly interfere or infringe upon the development of the crop tree’s crown. Prior to releasing identified crop trees, it is necessary to determine the “free-to-grow” status of the crop tree’s crown perimeter in relation to its neighbors. As a rule, most crop trees should be released on a minimum of three sides.

Species criteria used to select crop trees are based solely upon landowner goals and objectives; however, only the healthiest and most vigorous trees should be slated for release. Designated crop trees may include timber species such as black walnut, oak, hickory, black cherry, and sugar maple; hardmast trees such as oak, hickory, beech, and black walnut; or trees that display spectacular fall colors such as sassafras, sugar maple, and sweetgum – the choice is up to the landowner.

Useful Links

Improvement Cutting

Past grazing, infiltration of exotic and invasive plants, poor harvesting practices, and general lack of active forest management have left many woodlands disproportionately abundant in hawthorn, osage-orange, honeylocust, bush honeysuckle, buckthorn, multiflora rose, and other undesirable tree and shrub species. In addition to these undesirable species complexes, many forests contain numerous defective and poorly formed trees (cull trees).

In order to shift tree and shrub species composition and stand quality to a more desirable condition, improvement cuttings are prescribed. Trees and shrubs slated for removal are typically marked by a forester with marking paint or flagging. These marked trees are then girdled or felled and treated with herbicide to discourage resprouting and ensure mortality.

Useful Links


Thinning is a treatment whereby selected trees are removed from a forest stand to reduce overall tree density, competition, and mortality. As a result, residual stand health, vigor, and growth are greatly improved to the benefit of timber production, wildlife, and recreation. Stocking charts – which optimize the extent of available growing space based on tree density, basal area, and average tree diameter – are used to precisely determine the extent and intensity of tree removal throughout a given timber stand. Trees removed or killed in thinning operations may be commercially sold, utilized as firewood, or left standing as wildlife snags.

Useful Links

Vine Control

Woody vines such as wild grape and poison ivy, especially on fertile sites, can be detrimental to your high value crop trees. Many tree species, especially black walnut, are very susceptible to limb breakage and bole distortion caused by heavy vine densities located on the main stem, branches, and crown. Vines growing on high value “crop trees” should be manually removed or cut and treated with herbicide. As a general rule, do not worry about removing woody vines from undesirable trees.

Useful Links


Most pruning operations are reserved for young natural forest stands and artificially established plantations that are capable of producing high quality veneer logs and sawlogs upon final harvest. Pruning operations are usually not recommended in mature forest stands owing to the poor rate of financial return. As a general rule, avoid pruning more than 50 percent of the live crown of a tree. Corrective pruning operations may be warranted in young plantation stands if excessive deer browsing, mechanical damage, or ice damage warrant such remedial treatment.




U of I ACES U of I Extension