Clear-Cut Demonstration Angers Forest’s Neighbors

  • Stands of pine like this have been clear-cut to demonstrate an option that forest owners can take to manage their property. (Photo by Keran McKenzie)

Most forests in the Great Lakes region are privately owned. That concerns the U.S. Forest Service because the agency says many forest owners don’t know how to properly manage their woodlands. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports that a new education project that demonstrates tree-harvesting techniques has angered some residents:

Transcript

Most forests in the Great Lakes region are privately owned. That concerns the U.S.
Forest Service because the agency says many forest owners don’t know how to properly
manage their woodlands. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports that a
new education project that demonstrates tree-harvesting techniques has angered some residents:


(sound of chain saws)


Workers are cutting down trees in a fifty-year-old pine crop. At the same time, state
foresters are leading a botanist, a private tree farmer, and a reporter through this forest
education site. One of the foresters, Rick Miller, is directing the chain saws to show what
needs to be cut for what’s called a “crop tree release.”


“This one here we selected out with the orange flags, the trees that show the best form and
dominance in the crown. They have a nice big healthy crown. And then what we’re doing is removing
any trees that are touching the crowns of those ones that are orange, and just opening it up
to give the crown more room up there to spread out and possibly increase their growth and their
vigor.”


A forest owner who wants to make money off his pine stand might do a crop tree release to
improve the quality of the remaining timber. The bigger the tree, the more money it’s worth
to a logging company.


Heading deeper in, a crop of pine trees lined up like soldiers trails to our right, and wilder
hardwoods shade us from the left. There are signs to demarcate different timbering techniques:
improvement cut, understory removal, selective cut. Project manager Frank Corona stops at one
section of oaks, maples and cherries.


“You have small trees, medium trees, some larger trees. Trees are probably selectively
harvested in here and you have all different ages of trees in this stand…”


The cool shaded path abruptly opens up. The lush canopy is replaced by harsh sunlight.


GRANT: “Oh wow, so this is the clear-cut…”


CORONA: “This is the clear-cut.”


The forest is gone… cut to the ground. All that remains are the 120 hardwood stumps on
the torn-up dirt. Botanist Steve McKee suports construction of the demonstration site.
But he also loves trees.


GRANT: “What do you think when you see that clear-cut?”


MCKEE: “Well, clear-cuts are never pretty, ya know? So, uh, I think the most shocking thing
for me is I’ve walked in this my whole life and it was surprising. But I knew it
was coming too, so…”


But some people in the community say they didn’t know the demonstration project would include
clear-cutting older trees. Anne McCormack hikes the Mohican nearly every day, clearing trails,
cleaning garbage, or enjoying the woods. The education site has been roped off from the public
during construction. But she found out there was a clear-cut demonstration in an old growth
section of the forest.


“So, I just was… I was just shocked. I mean I can’t say anything more. I just felt
terrible for… I felt terrible for the trees that stood there since before white settlers
were even in Mohican. And there they just were bulldozed and chain cut for education.
I mean, it doesn’t add up.”


McCormack’s not the only one who’s upset. A lot of people didn’t realize this is what
the Forest Service had in mind. Back at the clear-cut site, Corona says many trees suffer
from disease when they mature to 120 years. He says it’s a good age for private land owners
to consider the clear-cut option.


“This was a time where before they would rot out or anything and we see more damage, more
susceptibility health-wise in the entire stand, we could make a harvest in here and utilize
those trees and start this whole new cycle of growth in here.”


The foresters and forest owners say clear-cutting is a viable option, and just one of the
many examples at the demonstration project in the Mohican forest.


Tree farmer Scott Galloway says people need to understand that owning a forest is another
form of family farming. For instance, he got a call recently from a man who inherited 30
acres and needed money right away. He doesn’t know how to manage his tree crop.


“Where does he go? How do you make the right decisions quickly? The faster he can make
decisions, in his lifetime with his forest, the sooner he’ll be able to enjoy the benefits
of those decisions. It’s all about forestry, wildlife, natural resources. So the more education he
can get, the better those decisions will be and the better off all of us are environmentally because of it.”


The Forest Service says a demonstration project is needed because forest acreage is getting
cut up into smaller and smaller parcels. That means the forests are owned by more and more
people who need to know how to manage their timber. The Forest Service hopes this project
will help them make better decisions.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Grant.

Related Links

Gardeners Have Hand in Invasive Species Control

  • Centaurea diffusa a.k.a. Spotted knapweed. Introduced in the late 1800's, knapweed can reduce diversity in the region's prairies. (Photo courtesy of the USDA)

Gardeners have been ordering new plants and digging in the dirt this spring, but if they’re not careful, they could be introducing plants that can cause havoc with forests, lakes, and other natural areas. Gardeners can’t count on their suppliers to warn them about plants that can damage the local ecosystems. In another report in the series, “Your Choice; Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

Gardeners have been ordering new plants and digging in the dirt this spring, but, if
they’re not careful, they could be introducing plants that can cause havoc with forests,
lakes, and other natural areas. Gardeners can’t count on their suppliers to warn them
about plants that can damage the local ecosystems. In another report in the series “Your
Choice; Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


Gardening, especially flower gardening, seems to get more popular all the time. Maybe
it’s because the baby-boomers have all reached that age where they’re beginning to
appreciate stopping for a moment to smell the roses.


That’s fine. In fact if gardeners plant the right kinds of plants… it can be great for
wildlife. There are all kinds of guides for backyard natural areas.


But… in some cases… gardeners can unleash plant pests on the environment.


Katherine Kennedy is with the Center for Plant Conservation. She says almost all of the
problem plants that damage the native ecosystems were planted with good intentions…


“I don’t believe that any invasive species has ever been introduced into the United States
on purpose by someone who willingly said, ‘Oh yeah, this is going to be a problem, but I
don’t care.’ They’ve almost all been inadvertent problems that were introduced by
someone who thought they were doing something good or who thought they were
bringing in something beautiful.”


English ivy, a decorative ground cover, is now killing forests in the Pacific Northwest…
kudzu is doing the same in the southeast… and in the Great Lakes region and the
Midwest… pretty flowering plants such as purple loosestrife and water plants such as
Eurasian watermilfoil are causing damage to wetlands, crowding out native plants and
disturbing the habitat that many wildlife species need to survive.


Bob Wilson works in the Michigan Senate Majority policy office. Like many other
states, Michigan is looking at legislation to ban certain problem plants. Wilson agrees
that these plant pests are generally not intentional… but they do show that people seem to
unaware of the problems that they’re causing…


“The two most common vectors for bringing in these kinds of plants are typically
landscapers, who bring it in as a way of decorating yards and lawns, and then aquarium
dumpers, people who inadvertently dump their aquarium, thinking that there’s no
consequence to that. Before you know it, something that was contained is now spread.”


But stopping the import of pest plants is a lot harder than just passing laws that ban them.
With mail order and Internet orders from large nurseries so common, the plants can get
shipped to a local nursery, landscaper or local gardener without the government ever
knowing about it.


Recently, botanists, garden clubs, and plant nursery industry groups put together some
codes of conducts. Called the St. Louis Protocol or the St. Louis Declaration… the
document set out voluntary guidelines for the industry and gardeners to follow to avoid
sending plants to areas where they can cause damage.


Sarah Reichard is a botanist with the University of Washington. She helped put the St.
Louis Protocol together. She says if a nursery signs on to the protocol, it will help stop
invasive plant species from being shipped to the wrong places….


“And it’s up to each of the nursery owners, particularly those who sell mail order or
Internet, to go and find out which species are banned in each state.” LG: And is that
happening?
“Uh, I think most nursery people are pretty responsible and are trying to
do the best that they can. I’m sure that they’re very frustrated and understandably so
because the tools aren’t really out there for them and it is very difficult to find the
information. So, it’s a frustrating situation for them.”


But in preparing this report, we found that some of the biggest mail-order nurseries had
never heard of the St. Louis protocol. And many of the smaller nurseries don’t have the
staff or resources to check out the potential damage of newly imported plants… or even
to check out each state to make sure that banned plants aren’t being sent inadvertently.


Sarah Reichard says that means gardeners… you… need to do some homework before
ordering that pretty flowering vine. Is it banned in your state? Is it a nuisance that could
cause damage? Reichard says if enough gardeners care, they can make a difference…


“You know, gardeners have tremendous power. We, you know, the people that are
buying the plants at the nurseries – that’s what it’s all about. I mean, the nurseries are
there to provide a service to provide plants to those people and if those people have
certain tastes and demands such as not wanting to buy and plant invasive species, the
nurseries are going to respond to it. So, we’re all part of one team.”


Reichard and others concerned about the problem say although agencies are working on
it… the federal government has not yet done enough to effectively stop invasives from
being imported and shipped to the wrong areas. They say it’s up to the nurseries, the
botanists, and the gardeners to stop them. If not, we’ll all pay in tax money as
government agencies react to invasives with expensive eradication programs to try to get
rid of the plants invading parks, preserves, and other natural areas.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links

GARDENERS HAVE HAND IN INVASIVE SPECIES CONTROL (Short Version)

  • Centaurea diffusa a.k.a. Spotted knapweed. Introduced in the late 1800's, knapweed can reduce diversity in the region's prairies. (Photo courtesy of the USDA)

Gardeners are being asked to be careful about what they plant. Invasive species that cause damage to natural areas often start as a pretty plant in someone’s yard. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

http://environmentreport.org/wp-content/uploads/2004/05/graham2_053104.mp3

Transcript

Gardeners are being asked to be careful about what they plant. Invasive species that
cause damage to natural areas often start as a pretty plant in someone’s yard. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


Botanists, plant nurseries and gardeners are all being asked to do a little more homework
before importing, selling, or planting new kinds of plants. Katherine Kennedy is with the
Center for Plant Conservation. She says some of the plants you mail order from the
nursery can end up being invasive kinds of plants that damage the local ecosystem…


“We are actually at a point where these invasions crowd out the native community, not
just a species or two, but the entire community. And the wildlife value falls and the
native plants are displaced. And, so, the destructive potential for a species that becomes
truly invasive is more immense than I think many people realize.”


Kennedy says you can’t count on the nursery to warn you when you order plants. She
says gardeners have to make sure the plants they’re ordering won’t hurt the surrounding
landscape.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links