Cambridge tree farmer Joe Arlington has been named the 2012 Forest Conservationist of the Year by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation in recognition of his outstanding contributions to conservation.
Photo By Gloria Hafemeister
Arlington named 2012 Forest Conservationist of the Year
An Arlington family’s love for trees and interest in conservation practices has earned them the Forest Conservationist of the Year honor by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.
Joe Arlington, retired from his family’s medical imaging company, now devotes his time to managing his farm that has grown to 500 acres of cropland, marsh and woods.
While some of the acreage remains in row crops, rented to an area farmer, he has converted the more fragile land to tree production and prairie.
In doing so, he follows the prescriptions of a complete stewardship plan to sustainably harvest timber, remove invasive species, restore wetlands, plant more trees and improve wildlife habitat.
Arlington began his woodland venture in 1998 when he purchased 20 acres of woodland and he gradually added to those acres in the years following.
Under the guidance of a stewardship plan written in 2002 and updated in 2010, the farm’s goal is to achieve sustainable practices promoted by the American Tree Farm System.
He says, “With the steady but slow growth of trees, it takes time to find the best way to have a positive influence on the land — maintaining the delicate balance between forest utilization and protecting wildlife and watershed.”
Throughout the farm he has established hiking paths that are also useful for monitoring the progress of the various patches of growth. These paths meander along the creeks and ponds, through the woods and across the meadow.
Dispersed among the rolling hills and crop fields are young plantings of oak, cherry, spruce and walnut, as well as mature stands of red pine, oak and cherry.
On a recent tour of the farm, Arlington pointed to areas where cattle once grazed and to fields that once were used for raising feed for two former dairy farms.
The poor soil in some of these fields, however, is better utilized for raising trees and others, he believes, are better utilized by restoring them to prairie.
He points out, “Some of this land was too wet to support ag crops, but a crop of oak and walnut are growing well.”
A FAMILY HOME
The farm is home, not only for the Arlingtons, but also for three of the couple’s five daughters and their families.
Upholding a strong commitment to education, the farm regularly hosts school groups, woodland groups and others who would like to learn more about sustainable forestry. Annual Arbor Day celebrations on the farm are his favorite.
“Each year, fourth grade students from area schools visit our farm and learn about the cycle and process of farming trees and the history of Arbor Day, study invasive species, and plant their own seedlings,” he says.
The farm has also partnered with a school in Madison to provide learning opportunities year round.
Once a season, the students visit and help out with various projects — building bird houses for a blue bird trail, trimming trees and clearing branches, pulling garlic mustard, or planting seedlings.
In 2007 the farm hosted National Tree Farm Convention Field Day with over 300 guests taking part in demonstrations, presentations and tours.
The farm also participated in the Big Ten’s first carbon-neutral event in 2008.
In conjunction with the Homecoming football game, Arlington provided 20 acres on his farm for over 60,000 nuts and seedlings to be planted to offset the carbon produced during the game. Bucky Badger even helped plant a few seedlings.
MAINTENANCE IS WORK
Arlington maintains the farm with help from employees who constantly monitor the growth of the plantings, protect new trees from deer damage as best possible and monitor invasive species.
In one area he points to problems with garlic mustard taking over.
In other areas he is finding challenges getting rid of the perennial rye. The long roots of this crop, once thought beneficial for protecting fragile land near rivers and streams, are making it difficult to clear the area to establish new tree growth.
It is evident that the farm’s conservation plan is working when viewing the clear water of the stream winding through the farm. While the creek’s name is Mud Creek, the water is only muddy immediately after a rain.
Arlington works closely with the Department of Natural Resources and their foresters, planning projects and monitoring progress.
So far the farm has not harvested any trees, however, foresters have marked some trees for removal this year as a part of the long-range plan.
Arlington points out, “Tree farms are not only for this generation but they are for the next generation.”
Of the award, Arlington modestly says, “Many people are operating tree farms in this manner, doing a good job. I’m sure I was selected for this award, partly due to my involvement in organizations.”
He is a firm believer in education and says membership in woodland owner organizations is very helpful since people openly share their ideas and provide information about what species work good in particular areas and about things that have worked and not worked on their farms.
He is active in numerous organizations including the American Forest Foundation, Wisconsin Tree Farm Committee, Seno Woodland Education Center, and Wisconsin Walnut Council. He is currently president of the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association.