Article #11, May 1998
By Bill Cook
Michiganís six State Forests, managed by the Department of Natural Resources, cover almost four million acres. Thatís about 20 percent of the forest in Michigan and puts Michigan on top of the nation in terms of State Forest area. In the Upper Peninsula., there are three State Forests, Copper Country, Escanaba River, and Lake Superior. Together, they occupy nearly 2 million acres of the 8.4 million acre forested area. That places the state-owned lands in the same league as the national forests and forest industry. All three players, however, are outranked by the 3.5 million acres owned in the UP by private, non-industrial forest owners.
State Forests are actively managed for a variety of integrated purposes. Perhaps, the uses most commonly associated with these lands are recreation and timber harvesting. Over 400,000 ďcamper daysĒ were logged in 1997 across the 150 or so campgrounds. Thousands of miles of trails were regularly used by snowmobilers, bicycles, ORVs, hikers, and skiers. Additionally, uncountable hours were spent in State Forests by hunters, fisherman, food gatherers, bird-watchers, and many others.
The DNR sold about 810,000 cords of wood last year, enough for a cord pile (four feet high and eight feet wide) from Ironwood to Toledo! This volume was harvested from about 60,000 acres or about 1.5 percent of the forest area. The volume of the entire State Forest system would wrap around the equator over three times. Forest growth was about 2.4 times more than the harvest. If you like the cord pile image, growth in cord volume would stretch from Ironwood to Toledo, then on to Portland, Maine. These sales brought in over 21 million dollars of revenue to the State and provided jobs to many in the UP. Estimated value added to the Michigan economy from State-sold wood was around 300 million dollars.
Beyond recreation and timber harvesting, State Forest management has improved game habitat, mostly through timber sale activities. The strong trend towards more sugar maple-beech-basswood stands does not favor most game species. Guidelines are being developed and used to improve non-game habitat, too. Retention of snag and den trees, woody debris, special wildlife values, and species of concern have all been incorporated into forest plans.
State Forests, and all Michigan forests, are generally healthy and productive with most problems occurring in areas which are overmature or over-stocked. Forest protection is a key element in State Forest management. First thought that usually comes to mind, especially this spring, is the wildfire protection and control responsibilities, across most ownerships. Much of the damage from last fallís windstorm between Rapid River and Manistique has been salvaged. Reforestation efforts have already begun. No gypsy moth caterpillars or defoliation were reported anywhere in the UP last year, although male moths have been trapped in the central UP. Below the bridge, the moth larvae defoliated 38,000 acres over 23 counties. There are a few other bugs and diseases out there that have resulted in some observable events but none have had a significant affect on forest health. Monitoring is an ongoing effort. Excessive deer browsing continues to be an important inhibitor to regeneration of trees and other plants, especially south of the heavy snow belt. Deer management will likely remain a contentious management issue.
Our State Forests are in good shape by almost all accounts. Timber volume is increasing, thereís a vast array of recreational opportunities, abundant forest wildlife, excellent soil and water protection, and economic and lifestyle values remain high. Hopefully, this condition will continue for our future generations.
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Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at email@example.com or 906-786-1575.
by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005
J Road, Escanaba, MI 49829
906-786-1575 (voice), 906-786-9370 (fax), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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