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Article #45, March 2001
By Bill Cook

     At a recent Project Learning Tree Workshop, our group participated in one of the nearly 100 environmental education exercises related to trees and forests.  The task was to discuss the merits of three scenarios dealing with a 200 acre forest tract donated to a small city. 

One option was to keep the tract as a nature reserve. 

Most of our group opted for the “manage wisely” scenario, which included timber production.  One person said; “Why can’t we just let nature be?  Why do we have to do anything?”

I think these questions reflect an increasingly common perspective among Michigan’s growing number of forest owners, especially folks acquiring forest land for the first time.  This may be part of the reason why Michigan’s private, non-industrial forest contributes the least per-acre harvest volume of any ownership in the Lake States. 

My response to the “let it be option” is to imagine that everyone in your town has to derive all their forest benefits from local forests.  The same could be said of an individual forest owner. 

The lumber for your house must come from your land.  All the hundreds of wood-based items that we use must come from nearby trees.  That’s about four pounds of wood per person each day.  Your needs for clean water, healthy soils, wildlife viewing, and recreation must also come from the same forest. 

What will you give up in order to maintain that forest as a nature reserve?

Nature reserves have an important role in our forest.  But bringing our forest consumption close to home helps illustrate the tremendous need to manage most forests in a long-term, sustainable manner.  Failure to manage wisely puts the burden of supplying our consumption on some distant forest and compromises the future of us all.

Out of sight, out of mind, maybe?

Dr. Bruce Sohngren of Ohio State University produced an interesting model that yields some insight into our “not in my backyard” attitude.  His work suggests that each acre of productive forest in the USA removed from harvest results in many more acres harvested in lesser developed countries with much looser stewardship standards.

If you’re concerned about tropical rainforests, you should probably be an advocate of forest management here in the Upper Peninsula.

The Sierra Club is trying to stop all commercial harvest on national forest lands.  Nationally, harvest levels from national forests have dropped precipitously in the last ten years.  The situation is much better in the Upper Peninsula, but environmental activist groups such as Heartwood and Wildlaw have recently set up offices in Minneapolis to target this region of the United States.

Failure to produce timber from our domestic forests, including those local resources, has significant negative environmental impacts. 

Wood is the most environmentally friendly raw material we have at our disposal.  It is renewable.  Forest products such as wildlife habitat, clean water, ETC. can all be increased through scientific forest management. 

For those of you interested in a compelling argument for forestry from one of the founders of Greenpeace, try reading Dr. Patrick Moore’s essay found on the Internet.  The address is:  www.greenspirit.com/treesare.htm

Why would someone NOT want to practice good forestry? 

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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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