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Article #28, October 1999
By Bill Cook

     Forest management makes a difference Ö a positive difference in the lives of people.   But it usually happens slowly and mostly through accumulated efforts.   As a private forest owner, it is admittedly easy to put off managing your forest for dozens of reasons.   As a forest owner or not, sometimes we need to take a break from our daily activities and look at the big picture.   In forestry, hereís a few general trends identified by the Society of American Foresters.

     1.   One-third of the United States is covered with forests.   We have more trees, older trees, and larger trees now than we did in 1920 on approximately the same amount of forestland.   We also have the largest legally protected wilderness system in the world, while at the same time sustaining a highly productive and efficient wood products industry.

     2.   Until the 1920s, forests were generally logged and abandoned.  Millions of acres are now under management.  An average of 1.7 billion seedlings are planted annually, one for every tree harvested.  In addition, many billions of seedlings are regenerated naturally.  

     3.   At the turn of the century, wildfires annually burned  20 to 50 million acres each year, with devastating loss of life and property.  Today, efforts have reduced that amount to about 2 to 5 million acres.   At the same time, the important contribution of fire to forest health is being studied and better understood.

     4.   Wood utilization and waste reduction have improved dramatically.   Advanced technology allows us to use every part of the tree.  In addition to lumber and paper, we use bark, resins, cellulose, scraps, and even sawdust.  Products range from camera cases to medicines to rugs.

     5.   The return of wildlife.   Game species such as whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and wood ducks were almost extinct at the turn of the century.  Wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement have resulted in flourishing populations of these and other species we now almost take for granted.   Natural resource professionals work together to improve habitats and ensure survival of all wildlife species. 

     6.   America's first wilderness areas were established in the 1920s.   There are now 95 million acres in the federal wilderness system, and 149 million more acres of land in parks, wildlife refuges, and other set-aside places.   By comparison, the entire forest of Michigan is about 19 million acres.   And we have the fifth largest forest in the USA.

     7.   Early American forest management was based on what worked in Europe.  Since then, U.S. forest scientists have conducted research to control insects and diseases, improve growth rates, enhance soil and water conditions, and to understand other variables that make our forests among the most productive, sustainable, and healthy in the world.

     8.   Technology such as satellite imagery, can help foresters monitor forest health, target management activities, map fire outbreaks, and identify wildlife and fish habitat for protection.   We can learn and manage in ways not possible just a decade ago.

     9.   Recreational use in forests has increased dramatically.   Visitor days (1 person for 12 hours) to federal sites alone totaled 600 million in 1989.   Recreational use of the forest has significant impact on management.

     10.   A century ago, there were no professional forestry schools in the United States.  Now, the Society of American Foresters accredits 48 universities in specialized forestry education.  In addition, 24 institutions are recognized by SAF to offer two-year degrees.  Biology, math, computer science, communications, ethics, and other courses prepare students to deal with the art and science of forestry.

      As forest users, forestry has contributed to the lifestyle of all of us, especially those of us in the U.P.   If youíre a forest owner, you can become directly involved.   Forest sustainability will not happen by chance.   Forest management is needed now more that ever.   In October, the world human population hit the six billion mark!  Incredible.   The Upper Peninsula is one of the best places in the world to practice forestry, to provide the products and places that people seek.   We have an obligation.   Itís what we do and we do it well.   Ever wonder about stuff like that?  Ask a forester today.  

     The Society of American Foresters is the national scientific and educational organization representing the forestry profession in the United States. Founded in 1900 by Gifford Pinchot, it is the largest professional society for foresters in the world. The mission of the Society of American Foresters is to advance the science, education, technology, and practice of forestry; to enhance the competency of its members; to establish professional excellence; and, to use the knowledge, skills, and conservation ethic of the profession to ensure the continued health and use of forest ecosystems and the present and future availability of forest resources to benefit society. SAF is a nonprofit organization meeting the requirements of 501 (c) (3). SAF members include natural resource professionals in public and private settings, researchers, CEOs, administrators, educators, and students.

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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.

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