Preferred practices identified at forestry field day

Ray Mueller


Adjacent forests covering approximately 200 acres which had not benefited from top level management practices during the past 50 plus years served as the setting for a forestry field day on Saturday, Oct. 1, in the town of Schleswig in southwestern Manitowoc County.

Formerly owned by private individuals, the forests are now the property of the Cross Plains-based nonprofit Ice Age Trail Alliance, which is overseeing multiple activities in the forests to improve them in variety of ways: tree growth and regeneration, select tree harvests, hunting and other recreational uses. One of the two properties is open to public, but the other is not.

On the field day, the 40 attendees braved very muddy and steep trails following two days of periodic rains to get a first-hand look at the existing tree stands that consist mainly of oak, maple, pine and spruce with a smaller portion of ash and other species. The day's activities included presentations on current management activities along with a demonstration of mechanized tree and bolt (log) cutting by unit which comes with a $760,000 price tag when new.

Pine stand evaluation

At one of the presentation sites well within the forest on the field day, Wisconsin Consulting Forester Association chairman Don Peterson and Department of Natural Resources forester for Manitowoc County Andy Noth assessed the status of a portion of the forest that consists mainly of a pine tree plantation dating to the early 1960s.

They pointed out that the pine forest had not been thinned as it should have been over the years, resulting in many trees that do not have the ideal 40 percent of crown width compared to their height. Peterson observed that as recently as 14 years ago the professional recommendations were to plant pine trees at 1,500 per acre — a number now reduced to half that amount.

“It tough to catch up” on management deficiencies, Peterson said. He suggested that pine forests be thinned at 20 years and then again at eight-year intervals. Peterson also mentioned taking a minimum cut every three years because taking too many trees at one time could leave a forest vulnerable to the downing of trees during a windstorm.

A forest area cleared of most trees promises to be a good regeneration site for maple and oak trees because the soil has been disturbed and there will be close to maximum exposure to light.

Fear the deer

In noting the presence of some aspen trees at the site, Noth stated that new shoots could appear as much as 40 feet from the base of trees standing at heights of about 80 feet. But, along with young oak trees, the aspen are vulnerable to deer.

Given that fact, Noth said one alternative is to establish an understory in existing forests with tree species that deer are not likely to eat. Another option, though very expensive, is to install fencing at a cost of about $1 per foot plus the labor to keep deer out.

When undertaking a managed regeneration project, do it on a minimum of 2-3 acres to reduce the effects of deer munching, Noth advised. With white pine, he said another uncertainty is what the market will be looking for and willing to pay 20 or more years later.

Harvesting demonstration

The harvesting of several hardwood trees at another location in the forest was another highlight of the field day. It was conducted by Lakeshore Forest Products of Francis Creek (Manitowoc County) with the $760,000 new cost unit that quickly took down trees and sawed major portions of the trunk into logs (bolts) that are typically in 8-, 10- or 12-foot lengths, depending on the intended use and the buyer.

The area being cleared of most trees at the moment covered between 2 and 3 acres, but this will be expanded to 9 acres at completion. Some harvesting will occur in 72 acres on that portion of the Ice Age Trail Alliance property.

On the 9 acres, the intent is to regenerate a stand of hardwood trees — oaks and maples. Peterson described the very rolling landscape that was disturbed by the harvest as being ideal for that purpose but noted that the oak acorns and maple seeds need to sprout within one year.

Peterson emphasized that oaks depend on maximum exposure to light to survive and grow well. An initial population of 4,000 seedlings per acre needs to be reduced to 40 trees by the time of harvest, and it is necessary to remove any ironwood trees trying to grow amid the oaks.

A Lakeshore Forest Products timber harvester with a price tag of $760,000 when new quickly sawed a tree into logs (bolts) of 10 feet during a demonstration at a forestry field day in southwestern Manitowoc County.

Controlling the understory

Another aspect of forest management, especially in the context of providing access for recreation and preventing the establishment and spread of invasive species, is to control the understory growth of various competing species at the edge of a forest and in the interior.

At the field day, Scott Neuman and Steve Foote of Integrity Lawn Service & Supply at Ripon in western Fond du Lac discussed the capabilities of a mower designed to cut plants with diameters of up to 6 inches in forests. Neuman noted that in small areas it is possible to control the invasive plants by travel with an all-terrain vehicle and a backpack carry and application of herbicides.

For prickly ash, honeysuckle and other undesirable species growing between the wood-producing trees, the latest mechanical option is the forest mower which the Integrity firm has available. Depending on the density of the understory plants and the travel convenience at the site, Neuman said the unit can cover up to two acres per hour for a fee starting at $180 per hour.

Neuman listed garlic mustard and buckthorn as the most prolific and difficult to control invasive species at many sites. He also mentioned wild grape vines and multifloral rose at the perimeter of forests.

This forest mower can quickly remove undesired unstory species and invasive plants. This unit is owned by Integrity Lawn Service & Supply of Ripon.

No simple remedy

Don't expect to control any of those species with a single physical removal or application of a herbicide or other product, Neuman warned. He also pointed out that the choice of herbicide needs to be appropriate for the type of invasive plant.

Using a saw or chopping instrument to cut buckthorn or honeysuckle will accomplish little because there will be regrowth, Neuman said. Multiple cuttings during the growing season can eventually weaken both species and prevent the production of berries (seeds) on the buckthorn.

Buckthorn can easily be identified because it is the last green vegetation to hold its shiny leaves in the autumn. He noted that it has male and female plants and has both common and glossy varieties, the latter being more likely at lowland sites.

Herbicide selections

Foote and Neuman cautioned woodland owners and managers to not rely on a single herbicide product such as Roundup for coping with the invasive species. For a small patch of buckthorn, Foote said a treatment or two with rock salt should eliminate it.

As a foliar herbicide spray on larger patches of buckthorn, they suggested the triclopyr family of ingredient, which has a 3-4 percent concentration and is available at about $170 for 2.5 gallons as an off-patent version of an original far more expensive Dow product. Multiple mowing and giving goats access to the site could also succeed in the long term, Neuman advised.

Consider applying basal bark oil to wild grapes and around the roots of other species within the forest, Neuman and Foote suggested. They explained that this leads to an intake by the roots, eventually weakening and killing the undesirable plants.

Scott Neuman

Available resources

Woodland owners who don't want to face some of the conditions that were described at the forestry field day have a multiple of private and public resources from which to obtain guidance.

In addition to the DNR foresters and private consultants, another resource is the Sustainable Forest Resource Management Network that is coordinated by Don Peterson. For information, call 877-284-3882 or email

The independent private foresters have a Wisconsin Consulting Foresters organization which has a website at There is also a Wisconsin master logger certification program based at Florence which can be reached by phone at (877) 284-3882, by email to or at