SCHOOL TRUST LANDS > Sustainable Forestry
In our dual role as generators of income for today’s Trust beneficiaries and protectors of the school trust lands for generations to come, we are committed to a long-term strategy of sustainable forestry and conservation.
Timber production and other activities are scheduled as part of 15-year plans designed to manage school trust lands responsibly and sustainably for the benefit of all Wisconsin citizens. Timber harvests are used as a tool to maintain existing forest types or to encourage conversion to a forest type more adapted to existing site conditions.
Consistent with our commitment to sustainable forestry, agency staff and contract crews planted more than 76,000 trees covering over 275 acres in the 2009-11 biennium (July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2011). Jack, red and white pines were planted on over 100 acres of the sandy soils of Marinette and Oneida counties. Sixteen acres of school trust lands in Vilas and Oneida counites required replanting due to drought mortality. Porcupine feeding caused significant damange to a 45-acre red pine stand in Oneida County so white pines were underplanted in the canopy gaps.
The BCPL staff, local workers, and volunteers planted groups of trees to diversify forests on the better soils of Oneida, Forest, Florence, Vilas, and Langlade Counties. White pine, red pine, white spruce, and yellow birch were underplanted in canopy gaps and openings from selectively cut timber sales. Underplanting involves planting seedlings tolerant enough of shade to grow well under the canopy of mature trees.
Most trees planted are now grown from genetically superior seed into one- or two-year old "plug transplants." These plugs have been grown containers for one year in a greenhouse and for another year in outdoor transplant beds. This approach minimizes planting damange to seedling roots, provides better quality trees, and significantly improves growth and survival.
Managing invasive species
Invasive species, and especially exotic invasives, alter forest composition and productivity. These species—Emerald Ash Borer, garlic mustard, European buckthorn, purple loosestrife, Asian honeysuckle, wild parsnip, and spotted knapweed, for example—are a serious threat to Trust Lands and forests across North America. Preventing introductions of these and other invasive and exotic species may be impossible. We are preparing a more comprehensive assessment of the threat of invasives on Trust Lands and developing strategies to prevent or mitigate their spread.
The local challenge of global climate change
Global climate change is no longer debatable as a threat to ecosystems. Changes in temperature and rainfall affect in unpredictable ways the assets we manage. The trend of milder winters with less snow cover in northern Wisconsin has exacerbated already high deer populations. Forest fragmentation limits public access, making deer herd management more difficult. The resulting increase in deer browse has seriously limited the reproduction and growth of hemlock, cedar, white pine, basswood, yellow birch, and red oak on Trust Lands. As a result of continued harvest and low regeneration rates, the number of mature higher value species such as yellow birch continues to decline.
Portions of the northern forests also continue to be stressed by severe drought, now in the fifth year. Severe drought stress has affected white birch, yellow birch, sugar maple, and mature aspen. Some have experienced crown dieback; others have died. Seepage lakes and rivers are near or at record low levels. Many wetlands and ephemeral ponds are completely dry. Drought also reduced the numbers of insects, important food sources for birds.
These trends and events contribute to the challenges of forest restoration and long-term management. We continue to monitor the diverse ecosystems on Trust Lands and strive to manage them responsibly and sustainably for the benefit of all of Wisconsin’s citizens.