The Consultant - 2018 - 45

EVALUATING FOREST INVENTORY TECHNOLOGY FOR SMALL LANDOWNERS

record of the species diversity and the various habitats present on the property. You
can even become a "citizen scientist" by
sharing your observations with the scientific community. And, for unknown species,
you can share the picture with experts on
iNaturalist to get probable identification.

MIND
A landowner's emotional connection with
the land is a key driver in determining the
values and objectives of a management
plan. But rigorous and efficient long-term
planning must include quantitative analysis
as well. The mind gets involved when landowners want to optimize the management
of their property to achieve their values.
When is a new technology a cost-effective
way to improve management outcomes?
As consulting foresters, how can we show
that a management plan is truly optimal?
This is a particularly difficult question
to answer in an analytically rigorous way.
There are so many interconnected factors
involved in forest management that it is
hard to quantify the impact each decision
has on the ultimate outcome. We can use
the question, "How many plots should I
put in this stand?" as an example to show
how you can put some hard numbers to
deceptively complex questions like this.
There is a detailed explanation of this
approach on the SilviaTerra blog, but we
will sketch out the top-level view here.
Good inventory information is critical for
developing a good management plan. If the
underlying inventory data is off, a management plan might recommend suboptimal
treatments - harvesting too early, too late,
etc. No forester has the time to conduct
a census on each parcel, so we always
accept that our inventories (and thus our
management plans) will be a bit off. Most
of us have rules of thumb that we use to
decide how many plots to install in a given
stand - maybe one plot every three acres in
pine and one plot every acre in hardwood.
But is that actually optimal? Are we cruising
too little relative to the value of the decisions
we are making based on that data? Or are
we spending too much on cruising?
Here is how we can know. Let us consider a 200-acre, 10-stand ownership in
Northern Georgia that is predominantly
12-year-old loblolly pine. We can use the
THE CONSULTANT

2018

excellent, spatially explicit USFS FIA dataset to select a plot from a similar forest
type and generate a "virtual forest" where
we know the location, diameter, species,
etc. of every tree. Because we have perfect
information, we can establish a baseline for
what a perfectly optimal management plan
would look like and how much revenue it

A "virtual
forest"
created
using the
USFS FIA
dataset.

would generate. Then we simulate cruising
our virtual forest. We can put in a BAF 10
plot every three acres and see what inventory estimate comes out. Then we build a
management plan based on that estimate
and see how we do. Because we will be
working off of imperfect information, it is
likely that we will be cutting some stands
too early and others too late.
But now we can quantify exactly how
much money has been lost compared to
having perfect information. Adding in the
per-plot cost of data collection, we can
get a sense for the overall economics of
our sampling strategy. We can try many
other sampling intensities and methods
to see how they perform. At the end of
our process, we see which strategy has
the lowest cruising cost + expected management loss, and that is our optimum.
This process can be run for many different sampling strategies and in many different forest types. It can also be adapted
for non-commercial objectives like creating species habitat or other ecosystem services. An example of this type of analysis
can be found on the SilviaTerra website.
This approach also points toward a way
of evaluating new technologies like recent
developments in remote sensing. Most
remote sensing forest inventory technologies work by reducing the number of plots
that we have to cruise. Many foresters
already stratify their forests to reduce the
variability within each strata - remote

sensing extends this approach by working at a finer resolution and by applying
statistical models to identify areas that
are similar to each other. If the cost of the
technology is not too great, this enables us
to get better data and make better decisions while coming out ahead financially.
In general, we should consider adopting
a new technology if the improvement in
our management outcomes outweighs
the cost of implementing the technology.
Over the past few years, several exciting
advances in remote sensing platforms,
sensors and software have opened up
new possibilities for forest managers.
However, there are several structural
barriers that make it difficult for consulting foresters to adopt some of the latest
remote sensing technology - primarily
high fixed costs and technological expertise. Which of the available options makes
sense for most consulting foresters?
One of the buzziest technologies out
there now is called LiDAR - short for light
detection and ranging. It's essentially a
rapid-fire laser rangefinder on a swivel.
The basic idea is that you strap a LiDAR
sensor onto the bottom of a plane, it takes
high resolution scans of the trees below,
and then you analyze the resulting "point
cloud" to develop a forest inventory.
There are a couple of problems with
this for most forestry consultants. The
first is cost. A LiDAR scanner costs tens
or even hundreds of thousands of dollars,
to say nothing of the plane or pilot. The
second is that converting a point cloud
to a forest inventory is far from a solved
problem, particularly in closed-canopy,
mixed forests. It is simple and straightforward to read off average heights, but
there are no readily available off-the-shelf
tools for deriving accurate and unbiased
forest inventories from point clouds, and
most consultants do not have the time
required to learn the advanced statistics
and computer programming to take a
crack at it. While the cost of LiDAR sensors is beginning to drop and new drone
and satellite LiDAR platforms are being
developed, at this point, the cost of the
equipment and experimental nature of the
analysis outweigh the potential benefit of
incorporating LiDAR data into a consulting forester's inventory strategy.
45



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Consultant - 2018

From the Executive Director End Notes
From the President ACF: Forestry, Fellowship and Value
Sharing the Stories of the Trees: ACF Distinguished Forester Jim Able
Maple Syrup: A Steigerwaldt Family Tradition
The South Carolina Chapter and Forestry Students
The Association of Consulting Foresters Celebrates 70 Years
Carbon Offsets: A Viable Opportunity for Forest Landowners?
Changes of Biblical Proportions
Forests for Fish In Michigan, Foresters and Anglers are Learning from Each Other
Case Study: Richland Township Woods, North Central Indiana
Invasive Species 101
Evaluating Forest Inventory Technology for Small Landowners
Choosing the Right Accountant or Tax Preparer
The History of Forestry in Ireland
The American Oak Project Midleton Distillery Creates Rare Irish Whiskey to Promote Sustainable Forestry
Products & Services Marketplace
Index of Advertisers
Why not Surround Yourself with the Best?
The Consultant - 2018 - Intro
The Consultant - 2018 - cover1
The Consultant - 2018 - cover2
The Consultant - 2018 - 3
The Consultant - 2018 - 4
The Consultant - 2018 - 5
The Consultant - 2018 - From the Executive Director End Notes
The Consultant - 2018 - From the President ACF: Forestry, Fellowship and Value
The Consultant - 2018 - Sharing the Stories of the Trees: ACF Distinguished Forester Jim Able
The Consultant - 2018 - 9
The Consultant - 2018 - 10
The Consultant - 2018 - 11
The Consultant - 2018 - Maple Syrup: A Steigerwaldt Family Tradition
The Consultant - 2018 - 13
The Consultant - 2018 - 14
The Consultant - 2018 - 15
The Consultant - 2018 - The South Carolina Chapter and Forestry Students
The Consultant - 2018 - 17
The Consultant - 2018 - 18
The Consultant - 2018 - 19
The Consultant - 2018 - The Association of Consulting Foresters Celebrates 70 Years
The Consultant - 2018 - 21
The Consultant - 2018 - Carbon Offsets: A Viable Opportunity for Forest Landowners?
The Consultant - 2018 - 23
The Consultant - 2018 - 24
The Consultant - 2018 - 25
The Consultant - 2018 - 26
The Consultant - 2018 - 27
The Consultant - 2018 - Changes of Biblical Proportions
The Consultant - 2018 - 29
The Consultant - 2018 - 30
The Consultant - 2018 - 31
The Consultant - 2018 - 32
The Consultant - 2018 - 33
The Consultant - 2018 - Forests for Fish In Michigan, Foresters and Anglers are Learning from Each Other
The Consultant - 2018 - 35
The Consultant - 2018 - 36
The Consultant - 2018 - 37
The Consultant - 2018 - Case Study: Richland Township Woods, North Central Indiana
The Consultant - 2018 - 39
The Consultant - 2018 - Invasive Species 101
The Consultant - 2018 - 41
The Consultant - 2018 - 42
The Consultant - 2018 - 43
The Consultant - 2018 - Evaluating Forest Inventory Technology for Small Landowners
The Consultant - 2018 - 45
The Consultant - 2018 - 46
The Consultant - 2018 - Choosing the Right Accountant or Tax Preparer
The Consultant - 2018 - The History of Forestry in Ireland
The Consultant - 2018 - 49
The Consultant - 2018 - 50
The Consultant - 2018 - 51
The Consultant - 2018 - The American Oak Project Midleton Distillery Creates Rare Irish Whiskey to Promote Sustainable Forestry
The Consultant - 2018 - 53
The Consultant - 2018 - 54
The Consultant - 2018 - 55
The Consultant - 2018 - Products & Services Marketplace
The Consultant - 2018 - 57
The Consultant - 2018 - 58
The Consultant - 2018 - 59
The Consultant - 2018 - Index of Advertisers
The Consultant - 2018 - 61
The Consultant - 2018 - Why not Surround Yourself with the Best?
The Consultant - 2018 - cover3
The Consultant - 2018 - cover4
The Consultant - 2018 - outsert1
The Consultant - 2018 - outsert2
The Consultant - 2018 - outsert3
The Consultant - 2018 - outsert4
The Consultant - 2018 - outsert5
The Consultant - 2018 - outsert6
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