Managing for Old Growth
6:22 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

DNR Faces Management Decision for Van Vliet Parcel

Department of Natural Resources officials are weighing public input in deciding how to manage a portion of the Van Vliet Hemlocks.  

Old-growth hemlock stands are rare in Wisconsin.
Credit Natalie Jablonski

The more than 400-acre Presque Isle forest includes one of the largest old-growth hemlock stands left in Wisconsin.  It’s an area that’s only been logged a handful of times in the past century.  The DNR is proposing to more actively manage 75 acres of secondary maple forest that adjoins the hemlock area.  Steve Petersen is State Forest Superintendent for the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest.  He says cutting certain trees in the secondary forest would help it become more like the old growth hemlocks next door.

“If we didn’t manage it it would succeed naturally, and slowly.  We believe that through management we can have a better influence over what its future condition could be.  Hemlock hardwoods, big yellow birch, big sugar maple big hemlock.  Different sizes and different ages.  And it might seem kind of counterintuitive that we can manage to that kind of complexity, but we really can.”

The Board of Commissioners of Public Lands sold the Van Vliet parcel to the DNR last year.  But Petersen says the prospect of active management in one part of the site has sparked significant public outcry.    

“Remember I said that we manage for ecological, economic, social and cultural reasons.  Wow have we gotten a lot of social and cultural comment on this proposal!”

Petersen says it’s still up in the air as to what the agency will decide. The DNR is also proposing to designate both sections as State Natural Areas. The public comment period has closed, and the final decision will come in October. 

WXPR will take a closer look at this story in the coming weeks.