BARABOO, Wis. – Work now underway to remove high risk, damaged, diseased and slow growing trees on 327 acres at Devil’s Lake State Park exemplifies the benefits of forest management for wildlife, recreation and the economy.
In Wisconsin, timber harvests play an important role in maintaining forest health and diversity. Here, logs and pulpwood from the timber sale at Devil’s Lake State Park are awaiting transport to mills in Endeavor, Wisconsin Rapids or Tigerton. While the harvest may look like a major disturbance in the woods, young trees and shrub species will quickly regenerate, creating a new source of food and habitat for wildlife and birds.
Photo Credit: DNR
Paul Kloppenburg, Sauk County forester with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the timber sale involves removal of competing trees in some areas so that the next generation of trees can thrive. Sustainable forestry management often requires cutting trees in a given stand to encourage a healthier and more vigorous forest in the future.
“The purpose of the harvest is to maintain a healthy and productive forest by reducing crowding,” Kloppenburg said. “In identifying the trees to be cut, priority was given to retaining large, healthy oak and hickory trees to provide a seed source for wildlife and future seedlings. These trees also will provide den and nesting opportunities for wildlife.”
High risk, low vigor, poorly formed and declining trees will be harvested to allow oak, maple and other hardwood seedlings and saplings in the understory to flourish.
The 327 acre timber sale has been established by DNR forestry staff in an area bounded by Solum Lane, Tower Road and State Highway 113. The Devil’s Lake State Park property covers close to 10,000 acres, many of them forested.
Visitors to the area may see six aspen clear cut patches established within the harvest area. These patches currently contain aspen trees that are declining and the clear cuts will allow for regeneration.
Aspen trees provide highly nutritious forage for deer and grouse, host a large diversity of insects and are associated with shrub species that provide valuable food and cover. Aspen and birch trees are typically the first to regrow after disturbances; without periodic disturbances, active forest management is required to maintain these early successional habitats.
Kloppenburg said a segment of the Ice Age trail passes through part of the timber sale area and will be visible to trail users. For this portion, tree harvesting will focus on safety and aesthetic concerns. However, the trail will need to be crossed by logging equipment and the crossings will be designated and monitored by DNR staff as operations proceed.
Steve Schmelzer, Devil’s Lake State Park property supervisor, said a few visitors to the park have asked about the work.
“There are a couple of spots where you can see the work going on from the road and people have been curious,” Schmelzer said. “We’re happy to say that it’s going to improve the quality of the forest for years to come.”
Trees are marked as part of a Devil’s Lake timber sale that will help reduce crowding and improve forest vigor
Photo Credit: DNR
To minimize disturbance to the soil and surrounding habitat, harvesting activity will be restricted during wet conditions. The work also will be restricted from April 1 through to August 24 as an oak wilt prevention measure and to protect threatened or endangered species.
Beyond producing a healthier forest, the harvest will create a number of economic benefits including revenue to the state for saw logs and pulpwood delivered to mills in Endeavor, Wisconsin Rapids and Tigerton. The harvest may continue through the winter months as conditions permit and may last up to 3 years.
Wisconsin’s forests provide important environmental, social and economic benefits, supporting more than 64,000 jobs and providing $3.7 billion in annual wages. Each year, Wisconsin’s 17.1 million acres of forest lands grow nearly two times more wood volume than is harvested. In 2015 for example, forest lands in the state contained 22.4 billion cubic feet of growing stock volume and grew by another 586 million cubic feet while timber harvests totaled 305 million cubic feet.