Where forest & forestry resources come together for all users!

Sponsored by the Michigan Forest Association and Michigan State University Extension

Article #8, February 1998
By Bill Cook

            As I speak with folks around the Upper Peninsula, I receive a wide variety of questions about the status of our forest resource.  People are genuinely concerned, which is great.  A desire to know more about our forests should definitely be encouraged.  So, with that in mind, consider some of these forest basics. 

Most of all, the U.P. forests are in good shape from nearly every conceivable perspective.  However, there’s always room for improvement and there are some reasonable concerns about the future.  “Goodness” and abundance is something we cannot take for granted!

The curious or critical should always bear in mind a general vision of what has happened to our forests in the past.  Nearly every acre was cut over and much of the U.P. burned.  Roads and rails crisscrossed both swamp and upland.  Become familiar with the memories of elderly woodsmen and right away the forest of today becomes a paradise.  This paradise is a gift of nature with the hard work of many foresters and resource managers.  A look to the future, with a dash of global perspective, will serve to garner enthusiasm and sober our thoughts.

The most common forest type consists of maple, beech, basswood, and birch.  It’s what we usually call northern hardwoods and makes up about 44 percent of the forest with increasing presence.  The next most common types are aspen and cedar.  Contrary to some beliefs, red pine holds only three percent of the forest landscape.  The forest as a whole, has more acreage, more volume, more sawtimber, and probably more species diversity than at any time this century.  What the forest sometimes does not have, is high quality sawtimber.  But that is something we can all work on together to improve.  And private landowners are crucial in obtaining this objective.

The role of forest industry is often questioned, sometimes from a less than favorable frame of reference.  Some in our society have been trained to think that success is the same thing as bad, or that forest use equals forest abuse.  This manner of thought is rather odd if you think about it.  However, it’s a plain fact that good forest management would be impossible without markets the industry provides.  We could never burn enough firewood to consume all the wood removed by necessary thinning and stand improvement in our northern hardwoods. 

If one of our collective forest objectives is to provide products that people around the world use, then we need forest management.  Of course, we can always opt out of the global trade business but if we do we wouldn’t be pulling our fair share of the load.  Forest industry provides a critical link in converting resources we have in abundance for goods and materials we could not otherwise obtain.  Economics is not just money, it is the mechanisms by which our society meets its material demands.  The forest industry is crucial to the well-being of the U.P.

Threats to the forest resource do not come from forest management, although practices are always evolving to meet the changing wants and needs of society.  Nationwide, and even in the U.P., one of the most common threats to the forest comes from the parceling up of private forest holdings until they reach unmanageably small sizes.  The average number of years people own their land has dropped, creating discontinuity in ownership objectives.  Moreover, many folks who purchase these parcels do not hold views of natural resource management that are consistent with either forest ecology or economics. 

That presents a major challenge with over forty percent of the U.P. forest owned by individuals and non-forest industry corporations.  And the pressure for harvest on these private lands has increased dramatically in the last few years, especially as public lands curtail harvest volumes.  It’s no wonder that forest education has become a high priority.

There are, of course, other concerns about the future of our U.P. forest, such as old growth, reserved lands, species of special concern, water quality, wildlife issues, trends in forest composition, insects, diseases, and many more.  Perhaps, some of these can be addressed in the future.  But for now, rest assured that our forest is in good shape and trends, for the most part, are looking positive.  For those I’ve met who have asked questions, keep asking them.  The forest of the U.P. is a tree-mendous asset, one we should be both proud of and concerned about.

-  30  -

Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at cookwi@msu.edu or 906-786-1575.

Prepared by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005 J Road, Escanaba, MI  49829
906-786-1575 (voice),  906-786-9370 (fax),  e-mail:  cookwi@msu.edu

Use / reprinting of these articles is encouraged. Please notify Bill Cook.
By-line should read "Bill Cook, MSU Extension" Please use the article trailer whenever possible.

Michigan State University is an affirmative action equal opportunity institution.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital status or family status.   (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)

This website is maintained by Bill Cook, Michigan State University Extension Forest in the Upper Peninsula.  Comments, questions, and suggestions are gratefully accepted. 
Last update of this page was 5 November, 2018




This site is hosted by School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University.

Michigan Tech