Slow the Spread by Sole and Tread!

Wisconsin’s Best Management Practices for Invasive Species

Thomas Boos- WDNR Forestry Invasive Plant Coordinator

You may be a forester, arborist, landscaper, utility worker, hunt, bird watch, bike, hike or drive an all-terrain vehicle.   It doesn’t matter, whether walking or riding through city parks or remote natural areas, you may be unknowingly collecting the seeds of invasive plants, insects or diseases on your footwear and vehicle tires. They can then be transferred to wherever your feet and vehicle go.

To avoid transporting terrestrial invasive species:

  • Keep a small, stiff-bristled brush in your vehicle, home and/or backpack. Before traveling through natural areas, inspect and brush your footwear clean of caked-on soil and seeds. A small screwdriver may be handy for prying mud from deep treads. This should also be done during the course of a hike if you knowingly walk through an area of heavy invasive species infestation.
  • Many nature preserves in Wisconsin are installing ‘boot brush stations’ at entry points. Read the informational signs and use the boot brush!
  • Regularly inspect and remove caked-on soil and seeds from vehicle tires after off-road travel. Spray tires down with high-pressure water or at least use a broom to brush off loose debris.

Wisconsin faces an onslaught of invasive species from other regions and countries. These non-native plants, animals and pathogens displace native species, disrupt ecosystems, and harm recreational activities such as fishing, boating and hiking. They also damage commercial, agricultural, and water resources.

Because they lack the predators and competitors they faced in their homelands, invasive species can spread rapidly and aggressively. Controlling invasive species is difficult and costly and getting rid of them is sometimes unlikely. People play a major role in spreading invasive species; but can also help keep them from spreading!

In 2006, the Wisconsin Council on Forestry identified invasive species as the largest threat facing our natural lands and subsequently formed the Forest Invasives Leadership Team (FILT) to initiate the development of voluntary Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Invasive Species.  As a result, four BMP tracks were created to address the issue of invasive species in Wisconsin’s forests, including: Forestry BMPs, Recreation BMPs, Urban Forestry BMPs, and Transportation and Utility Rights-of-Way BMPs.

To address each track, four Advisory Committees were formed with over 75 individuals representing the forest industry, urban environments, utilities, recreation organizations, agencies, and environmental groups to develop the Best Management Practices to limit the further spread and introduction of invasive plants, invertebrates, and diseases.

The overall goal of the BMP Advisory Committees has been to develop a broad set of voluntary practices to increase awareness of invasive species by individual user groups and identify how their behavior can minimize the further introduction and spread of invasive species.

Although the specific language may change, the message should remain the same.  Our goal has been to develop a set of guidelines that address issues common to all outdoor activities whether harvesting a timber stand, mowing a right-of-way, pruning a boulevard tree, or hiking through a state park we can all Slow the Spread by Sole and Tread!

For more information go to http://council.wisconsinforestry.org/invasives/ or contact Thomas Boos at (608) 266-9276, or email at Thomas.boos@wi.gov.

Muddy forests, shorter winters present challenges for loggers

muddy roads shorter wintersStable, frozen ground has long been recognized a logger’s friend, capable of supporting equipment and trucks in marshy or soggy forests. Now, a comprehensive look at weather from 1948 onward shows that the logger’s friend is melting.
The study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Environmental Management, finds that the period of frozen ground has declined by an average of two or three weeks since 1948. During that time, wood harvests have shifted in years with more variability in freezing and thawing to red pine and jack pine — species that grow in sandy, well-drained soil that can support trucks and heavy equipment when not frozen.

Jack pine, a characteristic north woods Wisconsin species, is declining, and areas that have been harvested are often replaced with a different species, changing the overall ecosystem.

The study was an effort to look at how long-term weather trends affect forestry, says author Adena Rissman, an assistant professor of forest and wildlife ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “When my co-author, Chad Rittenhouse, and I began this project, we wanted to know how weather affects our ability to support sustainable working forests. We found a significant decline in the duration of frozen ground over the past 65 years, and at the same time, a significant change in the species being harvested.”

“This study identifies real challenges facing forest managers, loggers, landowners, and industry,” says Rittenhouse, now an assistant research professor of natural resources and the environment at the University of Connecticut. “Once we understood the trends in frozen ground, we realized how pulling out that issue tugged on economics, livelihoods, forest ecology, wildlife habitat and policy.”

Mud can make forests impassable in fall, and even more so after the snow melts in spring, making life difficult for companies that buy standing trees, Rittenhouse says. “Nobody wants to get stuck; you lose time and have to get hauled out or wait for the ground to firm up again.”

Shorter winters and uncertainty complicate management for logging companies, Rissman adds. “They often need to plan out their jobs for the next six months or year.” The same is true for managers of state and county forests, which typically allow two years for a cut to be completed. “In some cases,” she says, “they are going to three-year contracts to give more time to get the timber out.”

Even if equipment can traverse muddy roads, their ruts may ruin the road and cause unacceptable erosion. “There is increased attention to rutting on public land, and on private land that is in the state’s managed forest program or in a form of sustainable forest certification,” says Rissman. “Excessively wet and muddy ground during harvest is a lose-lose-lose for the logger, the landowner and the environment.”

The study drew data from weather records from airports, used to model when the ground was frozen; Department of Natural Resources records on harvest levels for various tree species; and interviews with forest managers and loggers.

“People in the forestry industry say this is a big deal; winter is normally the most profitable time,” Rissman observes. “It’s more and more difficult to make a profit in forestry (with) more loggers (taking) on a lot of debt — they are heavily mechanized, have heavy labor and insurance expenses, and these costs don’t end when they don’t have work.”

The uncertainty about when and where they can work emerged during an interview with a veteran logger, who is quoted as follows in the study: “When I started in the business … the typical logger … would shut down and not do anything for the month or two months that the spring break up would last for. Nowadays, with the cost of equipment, and just the cost of insurance on that equipment alone, you’re looking for work almost 12 months out of the year.”

The shorter winters seem linked to climate change, Rissman acknowledges. “For many people, climate change is something that happens, or not, in places that are far away, at scales that are difficult to see or understand through personal experience. Here’s an example of something we can clearly document, of a trend that is having an impact on how forests are managed, right here at home.”

This article was originally found at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141222165540.htm

Individual Ash and Beech trees particularly resilient to ice storms

If you live in Northern New England, those words can send a chill up your spine. They portend demolition derbies on the roads, power outages and the ominous cracking sound of limbs breaking and trees falling in woods, parks and urban streets.

Snow we’re up for. Ice, not so much.

But ice storms have been a fact of life in this part of North America for millennia. In fact, they helped shape our forests. “It’s just one of the disturbances that helped determine what tree species are successful in one place rather than another,” said Kevin Smith, a plant physiologist with the U.S. Forest Service who has studied ice storm and other damage to trees for much of the last three decades.

Ice storms happen when merging warm and cold air masses create a layer cake in the atmosphere. Precipitation in the topmost cold layer falls into warm air and melts. When it hits a lower cold layer it supercools. This “freezing rain” turns to ice when it hits cold things near the ground.

The mother of all ice storms occurred in January 1998. Millions of people in the Northeast and Canada were without power and millions of trees were damaged.

Ice is heavy, and an ice storm can shroud a tree in hundreds of pounds of the stuff.

Trees vary in how well they handle ice. Broadly speaking, conifers do better than hardwoods. Spruces, with their downward sloping branches, don’t even seem to notice. The branches of white pines droop under the weight; too much and they snap. Ashes are “real champs” at dealing with ice storms, in Smith’s words. Sugar maples and oaks handle ice pretty well. Birches, with their finely branching crowns, tend to lose a lot of their crowns and, in many cases, end up bent almost double.

In the wake of the 1998 storm, Smith and two colleagues began a long-term study of how ice storm-damaged trees fared. They tagged 584 trees of six species in six locations in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Each was rated for damage based on how much crown it had lost: Less than half; half to three quarters; or more than half.

When they looked at the trees again five years later, they found that, amazingly, better than 90 percent of most species were alive. The exception was white birch, which was dying because of root rot disease that infected the trees before the storm.

In late 2012, the researchers checked on their study subjects again (minus those trees that had been logged in the interim) and found 90 to 100 percent survival of the least-damaged trees of all species except white birch.

In a recently published U.S. Forest Service paper, Smith and plant pathologist Walter Shortle stated that 84 percent of the tagged trees were alive after 15 years; and 90 to 100 percent of the least damaged maple and ash survived. Trees that lost more than half their crowns died at a rate five times greater than those that lost less than half.

Crown injury reduces the number of leaves and thus the amount of energy a tree collects; energy it needs to recover. Branch breakage creates open wounds that allow in disease and insects. An injured tree’s prognosis is directly related to how quickly it can replace its crown and how good it is at walling off damaged areas.

“What I found most interesting is how resilient individual trees are, particularly ash and beech. Some individual trees lost almost all of their crown and within three to five years developed a new one. That’s something I wasn’t expecting to see,” Smith said.

Interestingly, Smith and his colleagues found that the ice storm mortality corresponded closely to the natural drop in the number of trees per acre that you would expect to see as a forest ages and trees get bigger in size but fewer in number, a trend predicted by stocking charts foresters use.

Of course, if your favorite shade tree is broken, your sugarbush devastated or your lovingly-maintained woodlot pounded by an ice storm, that’s poor consolation.

“I have a lot of sympathy for people who get hit hard and have an economic loss from ice storms. It does happen,” said Smith. “But in the bigger picture this is a natural part of the ecology. It’s life and death in the forest. This is how it plays out.”

Original article found at http://www.vnews.com/

Maintain and Improve Diverse Plants And Trees In The Forest

In the last article, we began a series looking at sustainable forestry. That article introduced seven principles derived from the Montreal Process that will, if followed, help private forest owners attain outcomes that will more likely leave healthy and productive forests to future generations. While the Montreal Process establishes criteria and indicators for evaluating the condition of a country’s forests, it does provide useful insights on how to manage individual forests as well as the landscape in which they exist.

The first of these principles is “Maintain and/or improve diverse plants, animals and trees in the forest and landscape.” There are four components to this principle. First, there is the challenge of maintaining and improving diversity and doing that at two scales – the forest and the landscape. A useful place to start as you work to include this principle in your management decisions is to consider diversity. The principle speaks to three components – plants, animals, and trees. The issue of diversity is actually larger than this, but carefully addressing these three elements will make a huge difference. However, oft times, we talk about bio-diversity, which extends our thinking to the ecosystem, the species within them, and the genetic diversity necessary to ensure natural selection processes.

It is hard to conceive how a private forest owner can affect bio-diversity; it is much easier to understand how one owner’s decisions can impact plant, animal, and tree diversity. The decision to harvest only large trees in a woodlot – diameter limit cutting – can shift tree species composition in the harvest area possibly for generations. Or, a decision to ignore vernal pool BMPs, might remove a salamander species from your woodlot and affect the species’ ability to survive not only on your property but quite possibly over a larger area.

The salamander example above introduces the concept of scale. Many forest landowners manage their property by looking inside their boundaries. After all, what they do and what their neighbors do are their own choices. However diversity does not stop at the property line –plants, animals, and trees do not consider these artificial human concepts. The decisions made in the forest can reach far beyond the individual’s property.

Across the country many exotic plants, insects, and diseases are threatening forest functions. Exotic plants, for example, often occupy and dominate niches and exclude native plants. Sure, these plants add diversity, but at what cost? Multiflora rose, kudzu, and Canada thistle, to name a few, are impacting native diversity. The decision of one person to plant or retain these plants on their property has potentially far reaching impacts on others across the landscape in the future.

If you would like to learn more about managing your forest to address Principle 1, contact your state forestry agency and/ or extension personnel and request information on conserving biodiversity.

By Jim Finley, Professor, Penn State University School of Forest Resources

Maintain and/or Improve the Health and Vigor of the Forest and Its Landscape/Watershed

This articles is part of a series designed to introduce the general principles set forth in the Montreal Criteria and Indicators and adopted by 13 nations to promote efforts to sustain temperate forests. The challenge is to make the principles relevant and applicable to the context of your forest property.

How do you look at your forest? Do you tend to limit your view to your boundaries? Do you only look in or do you look out? These may seem like odd questions, but they are important as your forest property is not an island. It is part of a landscape and has other properties that touch it and influence its functional health and vigor.

To understand the need to look across the fences that border and define your property, remember they are human constructions. People set up boundaries and attribute importance to them. What, other than people, observe these features on the land? Air, water, and pollution easily cross our fences. Wildlife, diseases, insects, fungi, and plants are equally unaffected by the boundaries we create to define what we own.

Clearly, property lines as artificial boundaries are unimportant to some forest functions. This is not to say that we should ignore them; rather, we should be willing to look across them to manage for healthy and vigorous forests. Perhaps, some examples will help emphasize the importance of managing your forest as part of larger landscape which may extend miles beyond your boundaries.

Let’s consider a common event – a timber harvest on the property next to yours. How could this affect the health of your forest? Your neighbor cuts up to the line and allows more sun and wind to reach into your forest. Soon, some of your trees tip over, others develop epicormic branches, garlic mustard, an exotic invasive plant held at bay by the full forest canopy, now has enough light to “jump” across the fence and fill in your forest understory. Likely there is little you could have done, but knowing that all this could happen may suggest that you have to look “over there” to plan how to protect your forest values.

In another example, the emerald ash borer (EAB)* an exotic invasive insect that has devastated forests in the north-central United States, has recently been found in Pennsylvania. Its appearance shows that our forests are subject to threats from around the world. However, in the context of your property, what should you do? The answer is simple – learn to recognize EAB signs and begin to monitor the health and vigor of your ash trees, observe the health of your neighbor’s trees, and learn about your management options.

Forests are dynamic and every changing places. A forest that appears healthy today may be at risk tomorrow. Sustainable forest management involves diligence, planning, and action. As a forest owner, you should understand that the objectives and goals you have for your property depend on maintaining forest values. Your failure to monitor forest conditions and to plan for change that will likely happen can lead to a forest that does not meet your needs. Sometimes change is something you can plan for, other times change is imposed. The important thing is that you recognize it happens and you strive to ensure your forest’s health for tomorrow. This means that you have to think of your forest as part of a landscape surrounded by the property of others. You have to consider what is happening elsewhere to keep your forest healthy and safe. And you have to think about the effects your activities will have on the lands around you. It’s about being a good neighbor – on the watershed or landscape level.

By Jim Finley, Professor, Penn State University School of Forest Resources

Sustainable Forestry: Principle Seven

Comply with Laws and Rules and Implement Applicable Guidelines in States Not Using a Regulatory Approach.

By Jim Finley, Professor, Penn State University

School Of Forest Resources

I fervently believe that most forest landowners want to act responsibly toward their forests. Sometimes, despite their best intentions, harvesting activities don’t work out as planned. In many states, forest management decisions are largely left to the owner’s discretion. Most forest management regulations relate to protecting the state’s water resources from the effects of erosion and sedimentation (E&S). However, in some places, you will find local ordinances that may restrict timber harvesting activities.

You also need to consider your state’s Clean Water Act and associated regulations, they may require every earth moving activity have an erosion and sedimentation (E&S) plan. Timber harvesting operations may require an Environmental Protection permit. In general, a forest owner should follow state guidelines for erosion control. Many states offer publications that provide clear detail on how to create an E&S plan, how to obtain general permits for stream crossings, and how to install control structures that will ensure properly done harvesting doesn’t adversely affect clean water. In addition, you may need to follow your state’s Best Management Practices (BMPs) guidelines.

Clearly this principle encourages you to follow guidelines. By extension, to do this successfully, you have to become knowledgeable in the use and implementation of practices relating to your management activities. If we are to manage forests successfully without imposing unnecessary restrictions, forest owners should ensure they have a voice in the decisions which may affect their care of their forests. Consider joining other forest owners as a member of a local or state forestry group where you can share knowledge and experiences and consider ways to cooperate with your neighbors and others to implement management practices that protect forest values and integrity.

Careful planning, understanding public concerns and values, as well as your own objectives, will allow the forestry community to have a voice at the table where policy and regulations are written. By following the seven principles we have covered, you can contribute significantly to extending working and healthy forests forward for the future generations to use and enjoy.

stewardship-article-7-picture

Remember, forests are more than just trees; they are an interactive community of plants, animals, soils, and water. As a forest owner you are more than just a guardian or investor; you are a steward who pursues personal goals to care for and use the forest today while sustaining long-term forest health and continuity.

Successful stewardship relies heavily upon the time and energy invested in planning. A stewardship plan is the best way to capture the full benefit of blending personal goals with stewardship principles:

Principle 1: Maintain or improve diverse plants, animals, and trees in the forest and landscape

Principle 2: Maintain and improve forest productive capacity including wildlife and aesthetics

Principle 3: Maintain or improve the health and vigor of the forest and its landscape/watershed

Principle 4: Improve soil and water resources

Principle 5: Manage forests for growth and energy storage

Principle 6: Manage for community, cultural, and economic benefits

Principle 7: Comply with laws and state Best Management Practices

Becoming a Good Steward

Forest stewardship is an ongoing, long-term and adaptive process; you learn from your actions, investments, and even inaction as each decision plays out on the land. The process, however, can be complex because many things affect forest health and vigor. The changes you witness may be subtle, intermittent, and difficult to gauge. Taking the time to consider what efforts, events, milestones, or accomplishments you might use to track your success can help focus your work and avoid surprises, as well as maximize satisfaction and returns on your investment.

If you have a written plan for your forest, take it down from the shelf from time to time to evaluate your progress toward its implementation. If you do not have a plan, consider writing one. To do this, contact your state forestry agency or Natural Resource Conservation Agency. Learn what you can about managing your forest well by becoming involved in a community of forest owners who also care about the land. Together, we can leave a legacy on the land that speaks to our love of forest.

People and businesses who are committed to our Sustainable Forestry projects:

Miller Son Tree Service in Tampa

4427 W Leila Ave
Tampa, FL 33616
(813) 579-1358

Forest Pests and Forest Sustainability

Forest pests and diseases are a major challenge for U.S. forest sustainability in the 21st century

Guy Robertson, grobertson02@fs.fed.us

The National Report on Sustainable Forests—2010 identified forest disturbance processes, and insect infestations in particular, as the greatest single threat to the current sustainability of America’s forests and perhaps the greatest challenge for forest management in our generation. This is not news to many in the forestry profession nor to many other people who care about forests. The media is full of stories about the latest forest fire, the land it has destroyed and the lives it has disrupted. Less covered but still well understood by those paying attention are the deteriorating forest conditions that are driving major changes in our forests and, in fire prone areas, leading to bigger and more intense fires. Pathogens, drought, fire suppression, and a number of other factors all play their part, but it is the rapid increase in forest pests, diseases and invasive species in recent decades that is the clearest signal that forests as we have known them are under threat.

Forest pests and diseases are challenging traditional notions of sustainability

For much of the history of forestry the central question has been one of “harvest regulation”: when, where and how much timber can we harvest without depleting the forest resources upon which we rely? Those days are gone, at least in the United States. In fact, the total amount of U.S. land covered in forests has remained quite stable for close to a century, and the volume of wood growing in these forests is increasing. Now we face a much more complex problem involving the management of vast forest lands, some dedicated to timber production but most not, and all subject to both natural processes and human influences interacting over time and space. The forest pests and diseases that are the focus of this article are a perfect example of this management challenge. Whatever we do, these forces will substantially shape the forests of the future. Now, the key question for sustainability is not simply about how much wood we can take; it’s about how we can design our actions to limit damage to forest ecosystems and enhance the many different benefits we derive from them.

Data to inform discussions and decisions

A first step in responding to the problem is to develop the data needed to understand it. The Forest Service’s Forest Health Protection Unit [hot link] (FHP) has been working for over 60 years to inventory the various health threats confronting U.S. forests. The information they have developed was crucial to producing the forest health and disturbance indicators [hot link] in the National Report on Sustainable Forests. The key finding that pest-caused tree mortality had increased three-fold since the release of the previous Sustainability Report in 2003 emerged as the brightest red-flag in the 2010 Report. This finding masks considerable year-on-year variability, but the signal indicating substantial increases in insect activity is clear. We will be paying close attention to these statistics as we prepare for the publication of the next edition in 2015.

Figure 1 FHP surveyed acres of tree mortality due to insects and diseases 1998-2011.

Robertson-Fig1-300x208

Source: USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Protection. 2012. Major Forest Insect and Disease Conditions in the United States: 2011. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service FS-1000. Washington D.C.

Dynamic and Complex Relationships

When interpreting aggregate national statistics it is important to remember that they represent a combination of many different insect and disease events, each with a unique set of characteristics and impacts, and each posing different levels of threat. The relationship of specific pests to other disturbance events and natural processes is also unique. Bark Beetles in the West, for example, attack drought weakened trees and alter fire behavior and risk. Gypsy Moth populations in the East are held in check by moist springs. While the Southern Pine Beetle is endemic and its numbers are declining, the Emerald Ash Borer was first discovered in America as recently as 2002 and is rapidly spreading through the upper Midwest. The future response of each of these pests (and those that are discovered in the coming years) to changing climate conditions can be predicted in theory, but the actual result on the ground is a substantial unknown.

Challenges for Management

Even without climate change, responding to the different pests, diseases and invasive species in our forests would present a major challenge for forest managers. Climate change increases the uncertainty, and the urgency with which we must develop appropriate responses. The U.S. Forest Service has identified the restoration of forest health and resiliency as a core element in its management of National Forest lands [hot link?], as have states, municipalities and other land managers across the nation. The problem of exactly how we do this, however, remains a central question. The answer to this question will emerge over time, but we can enumerate several “rules of thumb” to help guide us in the process:

Management has to adapt. In the face of change and uncertainty we cannot simply rely on business-as-usual approaches to forestry. Instead, we have to foster adaptive techniques for developing management actions that actually work in the specific settings where they are applied. This means a dedication to experimentation and a willingness to discard failed approaches.

Nature doesn’t always take care of itself. Through our impacts on climate, the introduction of invasive pathogens and species, fires suppression, and various other activities we have essentially altered every acre of forest in the United States. In many places, letting nature run its course is simply not an option. In others, we may rightly choose to let natural processes continue without management interventions, but we must anticipate the consequences and be willing to live with them.

Working with nature and people. Major ecosystem processes occurring over vast landscapes and long time-spans are not something we can tackle head on just with chainsaws and bulldozers, or with a single government initiative. But sustained collaborative efforts involving multiple levels of government, the private sector and individuals can yield positive results over the long run, especially if we work smart, channeling natural processes rather than simply trying to obstruct them.

Look beyond the usual boundaries (and suspects) of forestry. Pests and diseases affect trees everywhere, not just in our timberlands or national forests. Urban residents, farmers, and others benefit from the forests around them, they have a stake in the outcome, and they have energy, ideas and resources to bring to the table.

What’s natural? What’s sustainable?

As human influences and natural processes continue to shape and change the forests around us, the definition of what’s natural or sustainable will remain a moving target. In most cases, it will likely prove impossible to simply freeze forests in their current state, much less return them to how they were 100 or 200 years ago. As a result, questions about exactly which forest characteristics we want to sustain and which values we want our forests to produce will continue to engage forest professionals and interested publics for the foreseeable future. The options, however, will be limited and the outcomes, in many cases, largely beyond our immediate control. Forest pests and diseases will play a big part in determining the future evolution of forest ecosystems in our country and the options available to society to manage this evolution.