United States

Department of


Natural Resources



1351A HIGHWAY 146 Bypass

Liberty, Texas 77575

PH.  (936) 336-9145 Ext.3

FAX (936) 336-7224



Managing Bottomland


June 2000



About 246,000 acres, or 32 percent of Liberty County is hardwood forest, found primarily in the Trinity River bottomlands and along bayous and creeks.


In years past, little thought was put into the management of bottomland hardwoods. Today proper management can be well worth a landowner’s time and effort.  Hardwoods have value both commercially and aesthetically.


This information sheet is not a comprehensive “all you need to know” explanation of bottomland hardwood management, but merely a guide with some helpful tips.  Because managing hardwoods can be rather complex, consultant foresters with experience in hardwood management can provide invaluable assistance, as well as marketing options to bottomland hardwood owners.


One objective of managing bottomland hardwoods for timber production should be to produce sawlogs (14 to 20 inches in diameter).  A tree is valuable if it is a desirable species, has few knots and other defects, and will yield a high percentage of clear wood.


Some of the more desirable commercial hardwood species include: nuttall oak, cherrybark oak, willow oak and green ash.  Less desirable species include overcup oak, water hickory, water elm, hawthorn, and red maple.


The first step in managing hardwoods is to determine exactly what is on the land by taking a timber inventory.  This inventory determines the approximate number of trees, species, size, and quality.  With this information a management plan can be developed.  The plan should include the following operations and timetable for carrying them out: thinning, woodland improvement, and harvesting.










The purpose of thinning is to selectively remove trees to improve the composition, growth and vigor of the remaining stand.


A timber inventory will indicate if a thinning is needed and how many trees should be cut.  Either the trees to be cut or the trees to be left should be marked with paint.



Remember these tips when thinning:

1.      Never cut according to diameter only.  Cutting all trees over a certain diameter (say 14 inches) will only degrade the quality of the stand, leaving small badly formed trees.  A forest should be managed much like a herd of livestock, allowing the best individuals to reproduce while removing the weaker stock.

2.      Thin to favor the overstory and midstory.

3.      Thinning too heavily may cause excessive branching on the remaining trees, and may leave openings for Chinese tallow trees to encroach.


Woodland Improvement


Often a stand of trees may not be ready for a commercial thinning, or perhaps it has just had a thinning, but still needs improvement.


Woodland improvement is a cost input practice but can pay big dividends in the long run.  Cull and unacceptable trees are controlled by cutting or by use of approved herbicides.  With the encroachment of Chinese tallow trees into Liberty County woodlands, use of approved herbicides may become necessary.




Harvesting is the complete removal of the overstory in a stand of trees for the benefit of smaller trees.  Remember these two rules when harvesting a stand.

1.      Never remove the overstory until there is adequate regeneration of acceptable trees to take advantage of the new growing space.  Livestock, feral hogs and deer can destroy an acorn crop and small seedlings.  Eliminating livestock grazing and controlling hogs and deer is recommended for adequate regeneration of oaks.  Removing livestock for 2 to 3 years prior to harvesting and 1 to 2 years following harvesting can greatly improve regeneration or desirable species and at the same time help to control a Chinese tallow invasion.

2.      Harvest small areas at one time (25 acres or less), leaving 100-foot wide corridors (minimum) between cut areas.  During harvesting, all trees should be cut, sheared or chopped.  Even the overstory trees that cannot be sold should be removed, unless they are needed for den trees for squirrels.  This will help suppress competition from less desirable species.


Riparian Forest Buffers or Streamside Management Zones (SMZ’s)


Leaving trees along rivers, bayous, streams and drainage ways can greatly improve of water quality and wildlife habitat.  These areas allow for the deposition of sediment and other pollutants before they enter our waterways.  The width of the buffer can be from 66 feet in width on each side of the waterbody up to several hundred feet depending on landowner objectives, hazards, species of wildlife, and other considerations. 


Keep wildlife considerations in mind.  Wildlife benefit most by dispersing harvested areas throughout the tract.  Irregular or long and narrow shaped cuts provide more edge and easy access for wildlife.  Leave den trees.  Include a variety of different species and sizes.




The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status.  (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)  Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET Center at 202-720-2600 (voice and TDD)


To file complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326W, Whitten Building, 14th  and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD.)  USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.