Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Chris Gass
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Walk in the woods

The Green Guy


October 3, 2019

Fall is my favorite time of the year, or at least it’s a tie for first alongside Spring. The weather is favorable and the pestering insects are well suppressed thanks to the mild temps. All this adds up to the great outdoors being a welcoming getaway with little excuses otherwise, especially for a walk in the woods with the abundant colors.

Lucky me, I had such an opportunity a week past on September 24 when Carlton SWCD hosted a Walk in the Woods event, with no less than our highly knowledgeable forester and the local Kettle River forestry chapter. The event is intended to be an open house showcasing a forest following a management practice to retain or improve the health of the landscape, typically on private land. In the case of this past event, we learned of the improvements that occurred from a tree harvest where an excess of mature aspen well past their prime stood. The landowner had explained how prior, the trees often tumbled causing not only headaches in keeping his trails open but also made being out in the woods an unnerving experience, especially on a day with a good wind.

Now, some might be thinking why would forest management include harvesting? Shouldn’t we be looking to preserve old stands of trees? The answer lies in how nature operates. A forest is meant to go through stages of succession from short-living, fast-growing trees to those that live longer but grow slower. How this is initiated is through some sort of disturbance (think fire for example) which would remove many of the established trees and provide the needed conditions for seeds or seedlings next in line. Without this though, the cycle halts and a plateau occurs which leaves stands of trees growing past their prime and being of limited value in the ecosystem. In turn, a managed harvest of the trees mimics this natural mechanism of replacement and succession benefitting the forest. Importantly too, the young forest that then follows provides not only a more diverse landscape but also supplies habitat currently in decline for species of special concern like the American Woodcock.

What was evident during the event was the significant improvement at hand. Lush stands of young trees were ample providing a mix of low-mid canopy to accent the high canopy of trees not taken during harvest. To boot, the young forest contained a wealth of maples, oaks, ash, and birch that were patiently waiting for the original aspen to subside. The diversity provides more tasteful scenery but is again a greater resource for a wider range of wildlife. Case in point, just a year after harvest a bird count was done and over 32 species were noted including the Woodcock, Golden Winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, and Veery. The landowner himself confirmed the greater presence he’s seen over the few years it’s been.

In all, it was an eye opener to see the difference management made on the land. More impactful though was the appreciation the landowner had regarding everything that resulted. He said many times over that without hesitation, he’d do it all over again. Come to our next Walk in the Woods to hear for yourself and reach out if you’re interested in the health of your woods.


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