LOWLAND CONIFER MANAGEMENT WORKSHOP
TERRACE BAY INN, ESCANABA, MICHIGAN
19-20 FEBRUARY, 1998
This workshop was held in association with the Michigan Society of American Foresters state meeting and co-sponsored by the Michigan Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Lowland conifers make up the fourth most abundant forest type in Michigan, after northern hardwoods, aspen, and oak. They lie in critical parts of watersheds, provide vital wildlife habitat, and support a significant forest products industry. The goals of this event were to 1) provide a review of the ecology, distribution, structure, health, and history of this forest type, 2) examine its value from a range of perspectives, and 3) review management alternatives and challenges in light of various ownership objectives, operational constraints, cost constraints, current regulations, and our limited understanding.
The largest portion of the workshop entailed field visits to four lowland conifer sites. These site visits are the focus of this web page. The first two sites demonstrated some of the ecological and landscape issues. The second two sites dealt with harvesting and management issues. Throughout the entire workshop, the inter-relatedness of natural resource values was emphasized.
About 150 people attended. Each person received a technical binder with an annotated bibliography of selected literature relevant to lowland conifer management and ecology. A limited number of copies are available for $15. Contact Mark Bale at 906-663-4687.
Field trips were prefaced with three indoor sessions presented for background information that would be more difficult to demonstrate in the field. Jem Castillo, from Michigan State University, delivered the messages related to the present distribution of the lowland conifer type and its economic values. Kurt Pregitzer, from Michigan Technological University, discussed lowland conifer ecology and development. Jim Hammill, from the Michigan DNR, challenged the group with issues relating to wildlife habitat values.
SITE ONE: Malman Marsh on the Hiawatha National Forest. This site included five stops demonstrating brush control strategies, ecological classification, lessons from past strip cutting, current findings from a long-term research project, and a small deer exclosure.
SITE TWO: An mature cedar stand and a major deer exclosure project.
SITE THREE: Long-term cedar harvest impacts in the Perkins deeryard on the Escanaba River State Forest.
SITE FOUR: A private timber sale on Doug Bovin's property.
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SITE ONE - STOP ONE: Ray Miller (MSU UP Tree Improvement Center) presented some of the management history at Malman Marsh. Strip cuts were done in 1965. Harvested strips treated with an American Ranger (giant rototiller) in 1988 resulted in poor tree regeneration where the microtopography was eliminated. Small mounds which are needed for tree establishment were removed. Terry Alexander of T&S Contracting, Inc. displayed several pieces of heavy duty brush cutting equipment. He has had success in retarding regrowth of alder by cutting it at ground level with a blunt cutting edge rather than a sharpened one. This effectively "shocks" the lower stem and root collar thus diminishing resprouting capability. The frayed stems then dry out, further retarding regrowth. Ray can be reached at 906-786-1575 or email@example.com. Terry can be reached at 906-474-6313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SITE ONE - STOP TWO: Greg Kudray (Michigan Technological University) spoke about the ecological classification system developed for wetlands in the Hiawatha National Forest. The classification is first split into mineral soil and organic soil wetlands. The next division is based on 1) hydrogeomorphology - landform controlled groundwater influence reflected by pH and vegetation (creating an acidic, species poor group and a base enriched, species rich group) and 2) drainage/aeration - a forested or non-forested division. Twelve different forested types are further differentiated based on landform, soil and vegetation indicators. To view the one-page key, click here. Greg can be reached at 906-523-4817 or email@example.com.
SITE ONE - STOP THREE: Mike Lanasa (Hiawatha National Forest) described the results of strip cutting cedar, the method recommended by research. Harvested strips, while fully stocked with balsam fir, spruce, and paper birch, lack cedar which makes up 90% of the uncut residual strips. This is a fairly common result in areas where deer overwinter. Possible alternatives to increase cedar would be to either wait until the shorter lived competitors in the stand die out or to cut them prior to the regeneration cut. In addition, with high deer populations a shelterwood to establish cedar regeneration followed by a prompt removal cut to open the area up would reduce the pressure from yarding deer. Mike can be reached at 906-786-4062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SITE ONE - STOP FOUR: Ray Miller shared some of the research ideas about cedar regeneration and stand development. Because smaller diameter stems appear to respond very well to release, even at older ages, diameter-limit cutting may be an acceptable method for cedar harvest. The Cedar Action Group has been involved with the establishment of 33 monitoring plots in lowland conifers across the U.P. Over time, more may be understood about the requirements of cedar regeneration and seedling establishment. Ray can be reached at 906-786-1575 or email@example.com.
SITE ONE - STOP FIVE: The last stop demonstrated the effects of removing too much micro-relief on lowland conifer sites. Direct seeding and natural regeneration plots show no success. Only planting within an effective deer exclosure has proven successful. Trees planted outside the exclosure have not survived. Liming to raise soil pH did not prove to be an effective treatment to increase cedar regeneration. For more information contact Mike Lanasa at 906-786-4062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SITE TWO - STOP ONE: Still
on the Hiawatha National Forest, we traveled along county roads to a site with
older and larger cedar. The last harvest was at settlement times, except for
some old strips. Kevin Doran (Hiawatha National Forest)
spoke about habitat qualities and the kinds of wildlife that utilize lowland
conifer associations. Many migrating songbirds will use these types. The role
of snags, large downed and woody debris, and other features of older forests
were discussed. Brad Stermer
(Michigan DEQ) spoke about some of the hydrological aspects and values of lowland
conifers. Kevin can be reached at 906-786-2512 and Brad at 906-786-2351.
SITE TWO - STOP TWO: Within walking distance through the cedar stand, we came along an electric fencing project enclosing about 26 acres. Chuck Cutter (Hiawatha National Forest) explained the intent was to study the effects of various silvicultural practices on forest regeneration, cedar in particular. Although well-built, the fence did not serve the intended purpose. Deer passed through and over the fence on a regular basis. Electrical shorts were common from fallen trees and for other reasons. Brad Bender (MSU UP Tree Improvement Center) led a discussion on various fence designs applicable to Lake States situations. A summary of these designs can be found in the annotated bibliography. Chuck can be reached at 906-474-6442 and Brad at 906-786-1575.
SITE THREE: The Perkins deeryard is located on the Escanaba River State Forest. This yard sustains an ongoing experimental harvest looking at cedar regeneration and the impact on the deer herds. Years ago, strip cuts were placed within the deer yard. The current management plan calls for some additional strip removals and a checkerboard cutting pattern with 1.6 acre blocks. The yard is heavily used by deer, indicated by heavy browse, rapid defoliation of cut cedar, numerous trails "paved" with scat, and the observation of high numbers during the winter. Craig Albright (Michigan DNR) presented the objectives for the area and discussed the value of this particular yard in the landscape. Dean Wilson (Michigan DNR) and Mike Zuidema (retired Michigan DNR) explained some of the strategy behind the current experimental harvest. Craig can be reached at 906-786-2351 or email@example.com, Dean at 906-786-2354 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Mike at 906-786-3137.
SITE FOUR - STOP ONE: Doug Bovin (private forest owner) agreed to host the group on his property north of Rapid River. Doug has been working with Mead Corporation to develop a harvest plan that meets his objectives as a landowner. Vic Lyberg (MeadWestvaco) explained the operational plan and constraints of the landscape. This stop is largely a mix of tamarack and black spruce, with the area succeeding to black spruce. There is a mix of balm, aspen, and other tree species. This area is scheduled to be clearcut. Regeneration pockets and areas of mostly smaller material will be avoided to ensure reasonable seed sources. These pockets will also serve, in part, as refugia for wildlife species in the area. Vic Lyberg can be reached at 906-786-1660 x2182.
SITE FOUR - STOP TWO: Across Doug Bovin's timber sale, there are several runs of good cedar bolts. These runs will be clearcut, bringing high dollar values at the current market rates. Many of the shorter-lived tree species have died, such as balm, aspen, and balsam fir. This particular run of cedar sharply transitions into a mixed tamarack-spruce stand of lower stand density. Terry Minzey (DNR-Wildlife) pointed out that proper cedar management varies from place to place. Cedar regeneration is generally obtainable in the northern Upper Peninsula due to lower winter deer densities. In the southern UP, it is often more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve cedar regeneration. By leaving as much cedar as possible, future options will be maximized as information grows and if ecological pressures decrease. Most UP cedar are 100 years old, far from the natural longevity. Therefore, leaving cedar "on the stump" is a biological option, unlike some other species. Terry can be reached at 906-452-6227 or email@example.com.
SITE FOUR - STOP THREE: Much of Doug's lowland conifer acreage can be characterized by mixed species, medium stand densities, and variable quality. In these areas, Charlie Becker (MeadWestvaco) explained the proposal to remove bolt material, leaving smaller stems to grow and to serve as seed sources. Residual damage is to be kept to a minimum and loggers will avoid pockets of advanced regeneration. This strategy will provide residual forest canopy, provide for future stand quality, maintain cedar in the landscape, and meet Doug's objectives to maximize revenue and retain as much hunting habitat as possible. Although landowner objectives are the driving force behind private land management, consultants and resource managers explain the trade-offs inherent with particular management options. Charlie can be reached at 906-786-1660 x2180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SITE FOUR - STOP FOUR: The merchantable aspen will be removed from these transition areas between upland and lowland types. The objective is to maintain the advanced fir regeneration where possible and allow openings to regenerate with aspen. Doug prefers the fir, where possible, for the visual quality along access roads. Timber removal and utilization in transition areas is somewhat controversial in some settings, and poses questions with answers that sometimes remain elusive.
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