Q: I’m about to thin my planted pines and there is hardwood among the pines. The critters have to make a living too, so I’m inclined to leave the hardwood. What do you think?
A: I understand your point. I kind of favor the critters on my farm too.
I see your question as an issue of establishing priorities. Like many landowners, you have mixed passions and consequently mixed priorities.
For example, if you wanted to maximize wildlife benefit you’d probably want to have very little pine out there (longleaf pine ecosystems being an exception). You could clear cut now and let it grow back in hardwood which it would do on its own. Good for the wildlife, but it would have very poor financial return.
Alternatively, if you wanted to maximize financial return, you’d want very little hardwood among the planted pines so the pine would get bigger, faster. But, this is not the best for the critters.
Most folks have mixed passions and priorities. But it’s good to understand that each priority has a “good” and a “bad” side to it. And, that each priority can be “optimized” in balance with other priorities or they can be “maximized” to the exclusion of other priorities.
There is not a “right” or “wrong”. It just depends on where your passions lie.