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:
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
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.