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 Contrary to popular belief coniferous forest thinning is not a process of taking large trees and leaving smaller trees.  Forest thinning should involve the removal of numerous smaller trees to reduce the number of total stems per acre, leaving only the largest trees that have already demonstrated their genetic ability to out-perform their neighbors.  Once a timberstand of these large trees matures and the growth slows to about 3% or less per year (in the South), the economic reasons of keeping the forest are lost since from that point on the number of stems per acre will be continually reduced through mature tree mortality at a rate higher than the remaining trees can produce volume.  The most obvious "best use" at this time is to harvest the timber through clear-cutting.  Clear-cutting allows the regenerating forest the least competition for water, food, and sunlight, thereby offering it's best opportunity toward survival and re-establishment.  A few old shelterwoods may, under some circumstances, be desirable for the new timberstand.  I am not, however, in favor of clear-cutting extremely large tracts (over several thousand acres depending on tract shape) at one time as this negatively impacts on the forest inhabitants.  Tracts should be harvested and re-grown on a rotating basis.

Thinning by taking larger trees and leaving smaller ones might be better referred to as an incomplete harvest.  For the most part the smaller trees left behind have already demonstrated their genetic propensity toward underperformance.  Harvesting timber like this might, perhaps, be the M.O. of a company cutting trees on land that it does not own.  A clearcut would be much more beneficial to the next generation forest because otherwise the small underperforming trees that have been left behind would from then on be consuming tremendous quantities of water needed for survival and growth by the young seedlings, as well as providing shade which reduces photosynthesis and retards growth.