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MICHIGAN FORESTS FOREVER TEACHERS GUIDE

 


CASE STUDIES PAGE   1TreeSign.jpg (13229 bytes)

In the CD Balance Section, four real life case studies were used to help explain the balance of biological, economic, and social issues in forest management.  Each case study was from a different region of Michigan to help illustrate how the relative importance of issues is variable and affects forest management, but still maintain a good balance. 

1.  Western Upper Peninsula - The Western U.P. Forest Improvement District
2.  Eastern Upper Peninsula - Recreation & Wetland Habitats
3.  Northern Lower Peninsula - Christmas Trees, Maple Syrup, and Forest Parcelization
4.  Southern Lower Peninsula - Agriculture, Urban Areas, and Forests

Activity Suggestions
PLT Land Allocation
PLT Why Do Trees Grow There?
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MCF Benchmarks
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Western Upper Peninsula - The Western U.P. Forest Improvement District

The Western Upper Peninsula Forest Improvement District (WUPFID) was formed in 1985 to provide forest management services to private, non-industrial forest owners.  It is a "cooperative", which means members pay annual fees to receive benefits derived from community participation.  The kinds of benefits received from this cooperative are:

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Expert forest management advice,
Forest management planning,
Skilled timber sale administration,
Better stumpage values from larger volumes
Access to multiple markets.

Selling and managing smaller parcels of forest, say 40 acres, can be challenging.  Harvesting timber from such parcels is more expensive.   For example, the costs of moving logging equipment are the same for a large sale or a small sale.  The cost per unit volume of timber rises when there are fewer units, which translates to lower stumpage to forest owners.  With WUPFID (or other forest cooperative), coordinating and scheduling sales among adjacent owners, or nearby neighbors, can reduce overhead costs and result in more money to the forest owner. 

WUPFID employs two full-time foresters to manage member lands.  The foresters work with the forest owners to make sure their interests are protected and the forest is managed with scientifically-based practices.  A long-term relationship exists among the foresters and WUPFID members.  Near the end of the year 2000, XXX members owning XXX,XXX acres were part of WUPFID.

Managing large blocks of forest provided more opportunity to make decisions on a landscape or ecosystem basis.  Better decisions on a larger geographical scale can be made when managers and owners are familiar with the current conditions, land capabilities of a region, and scheduled activities with the region.   For instance, managing a riparian zone differently may contribute to desired changes further down a watershed.  Or, maintaining a balance of age classes across a region will enhance ruffed grouse populations.

The western U.P. is the most heavily forested region of Michigan with 87 percent of the land area under forest.  There are only about 73,000 people living on the 5.5 million acres.  That's about 8-9 people per square mile, compared to about 170 for all of Michigan.  Funding school, roads, and local services is challenging.  Forest management and timber harvesting accounts for as much as 70 percent of local economies.  So, the western U.P. is one of the "woodbaskets" of the USA and the economy and local lifestyles are built around the forest.

Although the forests are quite resilient, as history teaches us (see Michigan Forest History), shallow soils, granitic bedrock (acidic), and sensitive water systems make good forest management all the more important.  Forests reduce the erosive impacts of rain and melting snow.  The Lake Superior shoreline lies in a heavy snow belt.  Spring melts cause huge volumes of water to move over and through the watersheds.  Forest cover is critical in keeping soils in place and maintaining high water quality.  Also, because of the heavily forested area, landscape opportunities for ecological processes and wildlife species influenced by large forest tracts are possible. 


Eastern Upper Peninsula - Recreation & Wetland Habitats

As glaciers melted, many low and flat areas were left in the eastern U.P.  One particularly large expanse of wetland lies mostly in Schoolcraft County.  Within this wetland region, the 96,000 Seney Wildlife Refuge was created.  Although many ditches were built to drain the area for agriculture, most failed.  In 1976, a large wildfire burned through the area.  Today, the wetland and refuge areas provide varied wildlife habitat and hydrological benefits.       FIND MORE BASIC FEATURES OF THE SENEY

Much of the area soils consist of sands laid down by melting glacier water.  They are poor soils that support vegetation adapted to dry periods.  In terms of forests, this means jack pine.  Jack pine forests are adapted to wildfire, reproducing well after the big burns.  Other soils, especially those on ridges and highland areas, have developed shallow layers of richer soil that support hardwood forests and other vegetation types.  This condition creates a special concern in light of the high recreation use of the region.

Concentrations of public land and consistently high snow depths make the eastern U.P. a mecca for snowmobilers.  Hundreds of miles of trails criss-cross the region.  Access hubs become highly congested to the point where air quality can be an issue.  The waves of snowmobilers support the rural economy in many ways, from motels to fuel purchases.  During the summer, these trails are often used by ATVs, other off-road vehicles, and other forest user groups.  Because of the good Interstate road system, access from southern Michigan and Ohio is much easier.   People purchase summer homes and camps, similar to what is happening in the northern Lower Peninsula.

The high human presence within fire-adapted vegetation types creates a potentially disastrous scenario.  Human negligence in a fire-prone forest type during a particularly dry spring or fall could result in a huge wildfire.   The loss of property and human life is a real possibility as more and more people utilize these landscapes. 

Public agencies work to manage the forest to minimize the chances of wildfire becoming large.  During hazardous conditions, fire control teams are on constant alert with many caches of fire suppression equipment and stand-by personnel.  Jack pine areas are harvested and regenerated in a pattern throughout the landscape to break up the continuous forest canopy and reduce fuel loads, which reduces the chance of catastrophic spread of wildfire.  Many private tracts are unmanaged causing fuel loads to build as these forest types age and begin to break-up.  Timber harvest activities sometime draw public criticism, however.  Clearcutting is required to regenerate jack pine and some new residents and visitors object to the practices.  

Social attitudes, an economic mainstay, and forest ecology combine to create a forest management challenge.


Northern Lower Peninsula - Christmas Trees, Maple Syrup, and Forest Parcelization

Abandoned farmsteads, reverted forests, and proximity to large urban areas create both benefits and problems for a rural forested area.  With the good road systems, urban markets for Christmas trees, maple syrup, and similar products have stimulated these industries.  Michigan is a major producer of Christmas trees and maple syrup.  Tourism booms and businesses supported by tourist dollars grow.  Many tourists like the region so much that they purchase forest property.   Large time-share developments, recreation complexes, and golf courses have become common in recent years in many parts of the northern Lower Peninsula. 

Forest parcelization is the subdivision of forested land into ever smaller pieces.  The ability of urban populations to travel and the high amount of disposable income has resulted in Michigan having the highest number of second homes per capita in the nation.  Many of these second homes are located in the northern Lower Peninsula, often on a piece of forest land. 

The price of land seems low when compared to similar properties near urban areas.  However, the prices paid are often beyond the means of most rural residents.  Those rural residents who have land to sell, often do quite well.  Children of those residents and local non-landowners often cannot afford to purchase land.  This socio-economic phenomenon of displacement of rural populations has been repeated across the USA.

Large numbers of small forested properties make forest management difficult.  Management activities usually need larger tracts of land to become effective.  With so many owners in the landscape, consensus is difficult.   The challenge of forestry is compounded by a growing urban sentiment against forest management, priorities higher than forest management, and a shortening average ownership tenure of any particular forested tract.  The net result is a large portion of the forest resource removed from forest production.  These are good examples of social issues interacting with economic issues.

The increased number of homes, driveways, and other developments also contributes to forest fragmentation, or the physical disruption of contiguous forest.  Forest fragmentation has impacts on wildlife habitat characteristics.  Numbers of people feeding deer, high deer populations, and the bovine tuberculosis issue may all be related to forest fragmentation and parcelization.   These kinds of issues are a complex of social, economic, and ecological factors.   Abandoning forest management, or failure to adapt forest management, can contribute to a host of forest health problems that can impact regional economies and social structures.


Southern Lower Peninsula - Agriculture, Urban Areas, and Forests

Southern Michigan lost most of its forests and wetlands decades ago.  Nevertheless, there are still many woodlands and forested corridors to explore and contribute to environmental quality.  Anywhere in Michigan, you're never more than a half hour from a forest or woodland.  Even in the heart of our largest urban areas, there are parks and forest reserves. 

Trees are good choices for temperature modification, noise reduction, and filtering air contaminants.  These characteristics become more important in urban areas.  Trees also provide habitat for wildlife, even in big cities.  In fact, trees may be especially valuable in residential areas for wildlife.   Of course, the appearance of trees enhances just about any property in our cities and towns. 

Caring for individual city trees and "urban forests" takes special knowledge.  "Urban foresters" are called arborists and specialize in understanding the relationship among trees, urban environments, and human beings.  A large city, such as Detroit or Grand Rapids, might employ or contract with many arborists to take care of trees.  Smaller towns might only have a single arborist, or may share one with another community.  Some universities have degree programs specifically for urban forestry.

Beyond the city limits, southern Michigan has some of the most valuable stands of timber in Michigan.  The richer soils and milder climates support central hardwood species that rarely occur farther north.  Growth rates and timber quality are also higher.  The timber value of a small woodlot with high quality trees may make management cost-effective.  Beyond timber value, these southern forests often protect rivers and streams, connect reserves with forested "corridors", and provide habitat for many species of forest wildlife.   These forests and woodlots provide valuable refuges in a landscape dominated by non-forest land use.

In highly developed landscapes, the role of forests will shift.  Woodlots and even individual trees take on increased values . . . and not just monetary value.  The majority of Michigan's people live in cities, and most in southern Michigan.  Perspectives and attitudes towards forests and trees that have evolved in urban environments are often much different than those from evolved in rural areas.  Subsequent social valuation of forests, expressed in forest ownership and creation of public policy, sometimes result in conflicts.  These sociological trends can impact forest use and forest management in important ways. 

 

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MSUElogo.tif (16254 bytes) This website was developed and created by Michigan State University Extension for the teachers of the State of Michigan.  The website is maintained by the Delta-Schoolcraft Independent School District in support of the Michigan Forests Forever CD-ROM from the Michigan Forest Resource Alliance.

Page Name:   CaseStudies.htm
Please provide comments to Bill Cook:  cookwi@msu.edu or 786-1575