New Opportunities in Forest Management, Minnesota Family Forest
By: Greg Nolan
Private non-industrial forested lands in Minnesota and other states of the Northeastern U.S. can benefit from the practice of "Forest Stand Improvement," a less-intensive and more owner-friendly version of Timber Stand Improvement that can be implemented by the landowner him or herself.
New Opportunities in Forest Management
Snowy Pines Reforestation would like to suggest some new ideas for managing our local forests in central Minnesota. From our experience here, the best tool for maintaining a productive, healthy forest is a cutting tool. My favorite is a brush cutter, used as a “weeding” tool in a 2 to 5 year old stand of regeneration. Species diversity can be encouraged at this time with very little effort.
We have actually changed small brush fields (left after clear-cutting hardwoods) to high value hardwood saplings, simply by brush cutting them a few times when they’re dormant. This encourages sprouting of the high value hardwood seedlings that were left in the ground by the parent trees prior to harvesting.
A chainsaw, with firewood production in mind, can change the quality and species diversity of a stand. We think with incentives we could actually get firewood cutters to do forest stand improvement, harvesting and sanitation, and salvage cutting. For example in exchange for the fuel wood they extract, we could get them to follow simple directions made easy to understand with a paint gun. With this system in place we could follow the ebbs and flows of what happens naturally in our forests (mimic nature).
Finally we need to form an army of motivated, highly trained locally based forest stand improvement (FSI) specialists who are turned loose to develop a clientele of local landowners who trust them. Service contract improvement cuts in the 2 inch to 8 inch class of hardwood forests would enable this group to cover some ground (thousands of acres). Why not pay for this with cost share dollars? I would argue that FSI cutting in naturally established forests would pay twice the dividends in half the time of planting trees from scratch, especially in a high value hardwood stand.
We think the “hands-on” learners that the university system left behind in rural Minnesota need a hand up to form this group. We suggest training sponsored and overseen by the university and carried out by local “hands-on” entrepreneurs.
Micro loans from non-profits could jump start this group with the safety equipment and modern technology (GPS and laptops) land managers would need to do record keeping. We like the idea of private forest consultants contracted to paint these trees with Dept. of Natural Resources guidance.
Our local forests in central Minnesota have been high grade harvested and managed by default for decades. It’s time to make them productive again. There is no better way to achieve economic and social development in central Minnesota for the future then to jump-start our mismanaged youth (both human and arboreal).
Snowy Pines Reforestation
Greg Nolan & Marcia Rapatz