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Article #34, April 2000
By Bill Cook

     Encouraging people to manage their forests, or to support the management of public and industrial forests, is a challenging task.  Forest management is simply not something that we wake up each morning thinking about.  Nevertheless, consider these few notions about forestry.

     We donít think much about wood.  Most people are unaware of the critical links between trees and the thousands of products that we use every day that contain wood.  People readily understand that oil tankers and pipelines mean gasoline in our cars, and that food really comes from farms and not grocery stores.  But the role of wood is more difficult to connect with our everyday lives. 

     Wood is a good thing to use.  It is a highly versatile raw material, often appearing in products that donít look like wood.  Use of wood has less environmental impact, lower energy consumption, and lower dollar cost than other common raw materials.  Additionally, wood has a characteristic most other raw materials donít share . . . it is renewable! 

     More people are using more wood than ever.  The use of wood around the world has grown, particularly in developed countries such as the USA, where we are a net wood importer!  However, many of us donít seem to recognize the importance of including timber production among the management objectives for our forests and woodlands, either on our own property or other ownerships.  Nor do we often think about where the raw material is coming from and where it ought to come from.  But it matters.

     The Michigan private, non-industrial forest is the least intensively managed ownership in the Lake States!   That might not be altogether a bad thing, but these forests could be contributing more to the well-being of local, national, and global communities, as well as to the satisfaction of the forest owner.  A properly managed forest in the Upper Peninsula is certainly more sustainable and desirable than importing wood from countries with questionable environmental policies.  Forest management has an important positive impact on local jobs, schools, and maintenance of the lifestyles we enjoy in the U.P.

     Forest management is also a good money-maker.  The value of standing trees has risen sharply over the last few years.  Done with the assistance of a forester, timber harvest often produces more revenue than forest owners expect.  The benefits of timber harvest also contribute to accomplishing the many other objectives most forest owners envision for their woods, such as wildlife habitat or visual quality. 

     Itís easy to procrastinate.  The trees arenít going anywhere soon and our attention is easily captured by more urgent issues.  Yet, forests generally change slowly.  The longer we put off practicing good forestry, the longer weíll all have to wait to maximize the many benefits that forests provide.  The patient, incremental, and long term process of working towards a set of goals is not consistent with how most of us relate to our needs, but itís the nature of forestry. 

     Itís rather easy to sit back and let your woods ďgrow wild,Ē especially if the values are underestimated and the management options are not understood (or misunderstood). But an unmanaged forest usually ends up diverging from most landowner objectives and certainly does not best serve the greater good.  Itís sneaky that way.  Forest management may not be in the fore-front of our daily activities, but it is one of those things that are critical to support if we wish to maintain and enhance the quality of our environment and society. 

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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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