Casual management of Ozark forests on private land is largely based on the wrong notion that a tree’s size reflects its age. Thus, diameter-limit cuts are supposed to rejuvenate the forest by making room for the supposedly younger (smaller) trees as the largest (best) trees are selected for harvest. In fact, most of the trees in a typical Ozark forest are of the same age, and tree size likely reflects crown position. A tree is smaller because its crown has been shaded, and such trees usually cannot grow much larger, even if their crowns are released.
The unavoidable consequence of a conventional high-grading harvest is to degrade the stand left behind. This has been going on for a century in Missouri Ozark forests, and it isn’t good for the forest, the landowner, or the forest industry. An alternative approach, crop tree management, leaves the best trees and opens their crowns so they can grow better. Instead of growing a lot of small trees, the idea is to grow fewer, but higher value trees. Such trees are also more resistant to drought, disease, and insect attack, and they produce more seed for wildlife.