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Article #264, December 2017
By Bill Cook

Michigan forests are growing older, with larger trees, and covering more acres.  Inventory statistics reveal a dynamic and ever-changing resource.

     The forestry community continually monitors and inventories the forests of Michigan.  The federal inventory units collect data across the entire State.  The DNR constantly updates the state forest land inventory and status.  Other tools are used by different public and private forest holdings on their respective woodlands.  A lot of tree counting is going on “out there”. 
     Sometimes, we think that forests are static resources, the same from year to year.  In the short-term, in some ways, this may seem true.  Yet, by reading the forest, most anyone will see constant change.  Trees grow, die, reproduce, and are harvested.  In some places, woodlands are converted to other land uses, while in other places non-forest, once again, grows trees.    
     Michigan has about 20 million acres of forest, more than at any time over the past few decades.  The many characteristics vary widely across Michigan.  The sets of changes in the western U.P. are quite different than the changes that most people see in the southern Lower Peninsula (LP). 
     The amount of data and definitions is rather mind-boggling and can be challenging to sort through.  Definite discernible trends can be winnowed-out.  However, for every trend there are exceptions, especially when drawn from the statewide pool of data.  These trends and rankings change over time, as the forests change.  With that in mind, here are a few highlights, mostly from the 2017 U.S. Forest Service publication “Michigan Forests 2014” (NRS-110), which focuses primarily on the changes from 2009-2014.

     Wood, water, habitat, and recreation are key values of Michigan forests.  Forest ecology is highly variable and increasingly complicated.  Managing forests will provide more of all the characteristics we value and offers the best alternatives for forest health and protection. 


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TRAILER- This website was created by a consortium of forestry groups to help streamline information about forestry and coordinate forestry activities designed to benefit the family forest owner and various publics that make up our Michigan citizenry. This website is maintained by Bill Cook, Michigan State Extension Forester/Biologist. Direct comments to cookwi@msu.edu or 906-786-1575.

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