"Clear and plant" versus "let nature takes its course"

I have property that has several, multi-acre, single-species pine tree plots. These were probably planted 50-60 years ago, or more, by CCC or by prior owner. A couple of acres here and there of mature red pine have died at the same time. A state forester walked the place several years ago and said it was probably a combination of drought and bark-beetles. [e.g. bark beetles thrived because trees could not produce enough sap to "fight back" due to dry weather].

I haven't acted quickly. Now there are a lot of volunteer sapplings, mostly cherry [non-fruiting] and oak 2-6 cm diameter trunk.

Should I clear the acres down to bare earth and plant pine seedlings from Dept of Agriculture county extension? Or should I just drag out the fallen pines and let the hardwoods grow on their own?

Mr. Mark,

Judging from your mention of Red Pine, your property must be in the Lake States or Northeast. My experience is in the mid-south, but based on the size of Cherry and oak, it might be cost prohibitive to "clear and plant". Especially since pine stumpage prices are projected to be "flat" while hardwood stumpage prices are expected to increase.

You might want to check-out the latest Forest Service Resource Planning Act Assessment (GTR WO-87) online at www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/41976. This can give you an idea of future prices in your area.