Our forests are part of the foundation of the Wisconsin identity. Their beauty and solace attract people from across the country. Travelers come to enjoy the lakes, streams and forests. The region is also filled with landowners who love their land for its many uses: scenery, wildlife, food and timber, and recreation. If you happen to be one of these landowners, you have the opportunity to contribute to the long-term health of our forests.
Our woodland landscape is recovering from widespread clearing and burning at the turn of the 20th century. “The Cutover” of the rich timber resources, along with the wholesale promotion of the region as a farming paradise, left a landscape of charred stumps and, shortly thereafter, abandoned fields from many failed farms.
While trees have come back, the forest is relatively young and many of the characteristics of that earlier forest are no longer present. Landowners often ask how they can be good stewards while achieving their personal goals from their woods. Managing forest land to obtain multiple benefits requires specialized knowledge in several fields including ecology, forestry, forest economics, forest products, and regulations. Individual landowners often do not have the skills, time, or acreage to economically work in their forest. We recognize that landowners need access to good information, and actions taken on their individual parcels of land contribute to the condition of the greater landscape. By working together, we can further the goal of a healthy and sustainable Northwoods ecosystem.
Our forests are in recovery.
It is important for landowners to understand the historical context of our region’s forests. In a very short time, around the turn of the 20th century, our forests were decimated. The pine were cut and floated down the rivers, the hardwood were cut and shipped out via railroad, logging slash was burned in intense fires, and much of the burned-over land was then farmed. All these activities caused significant soil erosion and nutrient depletion, leading some observers to consider the Cutover to be one of the greatest ecological disasters of our nation’s history.
In human time, the Cutover happened a long time ago. But in forest time, the Cutover was yesterday. Our forests are just beginning to recover. It will take time and effort, but with patience, we can steward our forests toward recovery and an improved ecological and economic condition.