Timber Survey Determined Tree Harvest Required
By Jack Jarnis, Principal, Four Corners Elementary School
You have probably noticed that there has been logging activity going on in the woods around Four Corners. We are doing this to preserve our forest and keep our sugar maple trees healthy.
Two years ago some parents, teachers, staff and community members pulled together to form the Burstrom Trail and Outdoor Education Committee. We wanted to provide the Four Corners community with access to a hands-on outdoor learning environment as well as promote respect for the valuable natural resources around us. Over the next few years we are planning to upgrade our woodland Burstrom Trail and maple syrup station. We also hope to build an outdoor classroom. And most importantly, the committee knows that we need a forestry management plan to protect our woodland resource.
One of our committee members, Dale Rochon, is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Forest Ranger stationed at Pattison State Park. Dale completed a timber survey for Four Corners. His report noted that our stand of aspen trees, the primary specie in our forest, had reached its estimated age of 50-60 years. If the timber was not harvested soon, disease and rot would soon kill off most of the trees. The committee agreed to harvest the timber and we secured permission from the Superior School District Board of Education.
Dale coordinated the harvesting for us, ‘tagging’ areas where trees were to remain untouched, such as around our syrup maples. To maintain the appearance of the forest and support wildlife Dale also tagged irregular boundary stands and cluster islands that fit in with the terrain.
Because aspen need direct and intense sunlight, clear-cutting is the only feasible option for harvesting aspen. Instead of regenerating just from seeds, aspen more often reproduce by sending up many shoots from their expansive root system. Clear-cutting provides the needed sunlight for these shoots to take hold and establish a new and healthy stand of aspen. If the forest is allowed to rot, the roots die as well and there are no shoots –and no aspen.
Clear-cutting is not the same as deforestation. New aspen sprout up quickly and the dense regeneration provides important habitat for wildlife, birds and game. Because we are harvesting during the winter we expect a vigorous new growth in the spring. By next fall the aspen will be 2-3 feet tall and in 10 years the trees could be anywhere from 10 to 20 feet tall.
The next steps after the harvesting will be to develop our forestry plan to manage the regeneration of the woods and develop the accompanying environmental education lessons to be included in our science curriculum. We are very excited about what this hands-on outdoor learning project is providing our students. Watch for more information on special events we have planned as we continue to move forward.