Regenerating state forests takes planning, patience
By Michigan Department of Natural Resources
If you ask Bill O’Neill – Michigan’s state forester – about clear-cuts, the first thing he’ll tell you is this: “They’re ugly.
“There’s no sugar-coating it, clear-cuts aren’t pretty,” said O’Neill, who also serves as chief of the Forest Resources Division in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“We understand that folks don’t like seeing harvesting, especially near the places that served as the backdrop for the camping trips and hunting seasons of their memories,” he said. “But it’s important to remember that any activity that takes place on state-managed forest land is driven by science and by what is, in the long term, best for the resource. Clear-cutting is an essential and proven forest management tool.
“Just because a recently harvested area is unsightly now, that it doesn’t mean it will be ugly forever. In fact, that area grows back even faster than you’d probably believe,” O’Neill said.
Forest regeneration is the practice of establishing young trees after the previous stand has been removed.
A majority of state forest land regrows naturally and quickly after a thinning or clear-cut. Some species begin to regenerate within a year.
In addition to natural regeneration, the DNR plants between 5 million and 7 million seedlings on 3,000 to 4,000 acres of state forest land each year.
These regenerated stands become ideal homes for many species of wildlife. Deer, elk, grouse, black bears, beavers, rabbits and songbirds love young stands, because they provide food and shelter.
People benefit from forest regeneration, too. Forests that are diverse in age are less susceptible to forest pests, diseases and wind and fire damage. That’s important from a recreation standpoint, because healthy forests are a big draw for Michigan residents and visitors.
So while foresters’ day-to-day activities may include everything from working with private landowners to evaluating insect outbreaks and supervising timber harvests, all decisions are made with an eye toward ensuring that Michigan’s forest resources are here – and thriving – for future generations.
For more information, visit michigan.gov/forestry.
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