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Improvement cuts made in the Glenwood City school forest

If you’ve driven past the Glenwood City School grounds recently, you may have noticed some changes taking place to the small stand of trees located on the east edge of the property. Last spring, a group of school administrators and teachers met to discuss the future of the existing school forest. They developed a three year management plan to make the stand of trees a usable educational area.

It is estimated that the trees in the 3.3 acre plot were planted nearly 40 years ago and have never been thinned or managed since. The stand consisted of jack pine, red pine, white pine, white spruce, and a few elms, ashes, and poplars. The high school agriculture students worked closely with the county forester to evaluate the stand health and population. It was determined that the basal area (tree population density) was at 160 square feet per acre and the recommended basal area is at 90 square feet per acre. Students also identified various trees with diseases and unsuitable characteristics that should be removed.

A plan was made to begin the harvesting of trees through an improvement cut this fall. A logging crew from Medford, WI volunteered their time to come in and harvest the trees for no cost if they could keep the lumber. This crew works with school forests throughout the state of Wisconsin and has had a lot of experience educating various aged school children about timber production.

Cutting began the second week of December and was completed by December 18th. During the harvesting agriculture, tech ed, and one 4th grade class were all able to view a demonstration of the cutting. The amount of technology in their machines is absolutely amazing! Henry Schienebeck, the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Executive Director, made a personal visit and gave an outstanding presentation on Wisconsin timber production and discussed the reasoning behind the decisions made for the improvement cuts in our forests.

Schienebeck had students look at the cross sections of timber that was cut. Then they looked at the tree rings, which showed how stressed the trees in our stand were. It is estimated that the trees in this stand are 40 year old pines that were never thinned. Once a stand is established it is common to thin the stand every 7-10 years, depending on environmental conditions and forest stand health. The tree rings told a clear story that the trees were stressed and nutrient deficient for many years since the growth rings were so closely spaced together. The harvesters told us that the pines should be twice the size in diameter than what they currently are!

The school forest committee plans to meet again soon to discuss the next steps in managing the forest. This spring 500 red pines and 500 red oaks will be planted in the area that the jack pines were clear cut. The school also plans on registering with the state DNR to become a certified school forest. Once the school forest is recognized by the state DNR, the school will be eligible for free trees, technical assistance from department forester managers, applicable for school forest grants, and receive assistance from the Wisconsin School Forest Education Specialist. Eventually trails will be developed and removal of additional unwanted species will be done.