You Can't Take the Forest Out of the Forester!


I recently returned from a driving vacation across the northern tier states with my wife. The trip's purpose was to visit family in Nebraska and Michigan. However, two high points were spending time in the forests of South Dakota and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The Black Hills of South Dakota rise out of the Great Plains and are essentially a ponderosa pine forest surrounded by prairies. The isolated nature of this forest doesn't isolate it from the problems associated with ponderosa pine forests. Overstocking, bark beetles and forest fires confront the forester wherever he looks. Ownership is dominated by the Black Hills National Forest, but state lands include the Custer State Park and private lands range from vacation home acreages to Certified Tree Farms.

I was very happy to see evidence of active forest management on federal, state and private lands. The fuels reduction and thinning that we saw on federal and state lands looked a lot like what you would see on the Deschutes National Forest or the Sun Pass State Forest. The log decks and pine lumber we saw at Rushmore Forest Products in Hill City could have easily been at Malheur Lumber in John Day or Interfor in Gilchrist. It was like a slice of Oregon in South Dakota.

The biggest surprise of the Black Hills was when we visited the Crazy Horse Memorial (photo above). The forest surrounding the large granite mountain that is slowly becoming a likeness of the Lakota leader was formerly part of the Black Hills NF. It is now managed by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation and is certified by the American Tree Farm System. This forest was well managed and would make any Oregon Tree Farmer proud.

The Upper Peninsula forest in Michigan was very different from anything we have in Oregon. It is dominated by mixed stands of northern hardwoods (maple, beech, cherry and oak) with a scattering of nearly pure stands of aspen and plantations of red and white pine. Ownership in the area we visited was dominated by the Hiawatha National Forest, but industrial and family forests were also in evidence.

Two forestry things that stood out to me in the UP were large conservation easements and sideways log trucks. One major conservation easement called the Northern Great Lakes Forest Project is between The Nature Conservancy and industrial landowners to protect private lands and water quality adjacent to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Land in the UP can be highly valued for recreation cabins and the lack of land use laws allows the countryside to be sold to the highest bidder. Conservation easements like this keep the land in working forests and help protect public values in this beautiful country.

Sideways log truck

Sideways log trucks are a result of 8 foot logs common in the hardwood lumber and pulp industry of the UP. Long hardwood logs are often not straight enough to go on a log truck or to go through a saw mill. Short logs don't work on a standard log truck. Sideways log trucks are reminiscent of a self-loading mule-train or short-logger, except the logs are loaded sideways.

So, I learned that some forests are similar to Oregon's but others are way different.

For the forest,
Mike Cloughesy
Director of Forestry


9755 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 210        
Portland, OR 97225        
Phone: 971-673-2944        
Fax: 971-673-2946

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