Archives

Celebrating Wisconsin’s Champion Trees

By Joel DeSpain, Division of Forestry Communications Specialist

“Each of us from birth to death is intimately connected with trees. On their beauty and longevity we hang our memories and beliefs, trusting trees to be symbols of our achievements and things we hold dear,” wrote renowned Wisconsin arborist, R. Bruce Allison, in his wonderful book Every Root an Anchor, Wisconsin’s Famous and Historic Trees. 

Wisconsin is abundant with rich forests, many of them urban, and as Allison notes, we develop deep connections with individual trees, some of which are the largest of their species in the state.

Here at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), we’ve been relying on community members to help us find and measure these giants since 1941 as we celebrate and recognize our largest trees through our Champion Tree Program.

This is an ongoing search, and we are actively seeking additional nominations – to document the winners and share them on our website via a recently launched interactive map that provides photos, information, and locations of the champs.

Champion Black Tupelo (located in the UW-Madison arboretum)

Some have been discovered deep in the Northwoods, such as our prize-winning, 108-foot sugar maple located in Forest County on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The sugar maple has been a Wisconsinite favorite dating back to 1893 when school children first selected it as our state tree, loved for its brilliant orange and red autumn colors and the delicious maple syrup derived from its sap.

You can find other champions in people’s yards or beautifying city streets. So loved is Wisconsin’s champion, 92-foot tall Northern Catalpa on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus that faculty and students banded together with tree experts to save it following summer storm damage last year. With its white, trumpet-shaped flowers, giant heart-shaped leaves and dangling bean-like seed pods, the Northern Catalpa is a showy beauty of mammoth proportions.

Several grandiose winners have borne witness to colorful histories, like our 108-foot Eastern Cottonwood Champion which sits next to Door County’s reportedly haunted Interstate Saloon, built in 1895.

More record-holders were planted in cemeteries in memory of loved ones, some of whom served in the Civil War. In Waukesha County, a massive, majestic burr oak dates to pre-Revolutionary War times.

No doubt, champs are all over the Wisconsin landscape. It would take quite the road trip to visit them all, and we firmly believe there are more out there, like buried treasure, undiscovered, each with a story to tell. We would love to find and document each one, even if it means dethroning a current champion.

We can’t do it alone. The program has endured because everyday people have been keeping an eye out for more than 80 years, ever since the program launched. So, without further ado, we invite you to honor and preserve Wisconsin’s natural resources heritage. Good luck finding the next champ, and remember, the search can be very relaxing and fun!

What’s Your Seedling Story?

By Lauren Peterson, Reforestation Communication Specialist, Division of Forestry

What’s the most sentimental space in your home? For many families with kids, it’s often a wall or a doorframe used as a tried-and-true method of tracking growth. This little corner of the house is filled with chicken scratched names, jumps in ages, even greater leaps in height, and happy memories of the past. However, for some Wisconsin families, a measurement of years gone by grows just outside the window.

For 40 years now, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has encouraged all fourth-grade students to take part in planting a free tree seedling, distributed by the Division of Forestry’s reforestation program. Fourth-grade teachers and homeschool parents are eligible to submit their orders for seedlings from winter through early spring in order to receive their shipment by Arbor Day.

It’s hard not to get sentimental thinking about tiny kids planting tiny seedlings, right? After an arduous journey of bouncing around in backpacks and being forgotten at bus stops, with branches abused but mostly intact, these seedlings found their forever homes outside those windows. Throughout the years, these seedlings have mirrored the growth of the tiny hands that first placed them in the soil.

Much like the seedlings and the fourth-grade students, this initiative to get future generations excited about forestry has grown each year to become a tradition unlike any other. Introduced in 1982, the project really hit its stride in 1984. Within the last decade, the DNR has supplied an average of more than 38,000 seedlings annually with a high of 45,857 seedlings shipped out in 2021. DNR’s reforestation team estimates that around 350,608 seedlings have been sent out to fourth graders across the state in the last ten years.

Conifer seedlings growing at the Wisconsin DNR nursery in Boscobel, WI

Seedlings are often a species of pine, distributed with an educational brochure to assist in planting and a plastic bag to ensure backpacks stay clean. Conifers, specifically pine, are commonly used for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it is relatively easy for children under supervision to plant. These little pines are green in early spring and grow well throughout the state on a variety of soils. Finally, nurseries often have a large quantity of pine from year to year in the quantities needed to distribute thousands across the state.

That said, on the 100th anniversary of the Wisconsin state nursery program in 2011, the nurseries celebrated by providing sugar maple seedlings instead. Sugar maple was selected as the state tree of Wisconsin in 1983 and the nursery program felt it was appropriate to use that seedling for their centennial anniversary.

This Arbor Day we celebrate not only the holiday, but the countless people who made this seedling project grow to what it is today and the children it has impacted. Through four decades of this endeavor, the DNR has had the support of countless teachers, principals, parents, volunteers and employees. For many fourth-graders, planting their seedling has been a fun springtime activity and watching it grow throughout the years is a memory to be proud of. To others, it sparked a fascination with forestry, natural resources, conservation, or science. After 40 years, one thing is still true; this was never just about planting seedlings.

Do you have a memory about planting an Arbor Day seedling? We welcome your stories and photos at Forestry.Webmail@Wisconsin.gov.

2021 Wisconsin Act 230 Makes Changes To Managed Forest Law Program

The legal requirements of the Managed Forest Law program have changed, allowing additional flexibilities to landowners and clarifying the administration of the program by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Governor Evers signed 2021 Wisconsin Act 230 into law on April 8, 2022, putting the following changes to chapter 77, Wis. Stats. into effect:

  • The 20-acre minimum enrollment requirement may now be comprised of two 10-acre portions that are not contiguous to each other if they are on a tract of land under the same ownership*
  • Buildings and improvements on Managed Forest Law property are allowed if used exclusively for storage*
  • Additions to existing parcels of any size are allowed if certain eligibility requirements are met*
  • Leasing on Managed Forest Law land is clearly allowed
  • Voluntary withdrawal from the Managed Forest Law program is exempt from tax or fee for a public purpose to a city, village or town that is the taxing jurisdiction

*Changes effective as of April 16, 2016

The act also clarifies:

  • The instances when the DNR is or is not required to assess a withdrawal tax and fee
  • The DNR’s authority to provide flexibility for large ownerships (1,000 acres or more) of Managed Forest Law land, allowing for alternative management plan requirements
  • What constitutes a material change to the terms of the order

Read the updated statute, chapter 77, Wis. Stats., on the Wisconsin Legislature’s website

 Thank you for your interest in the Managed Forest Law program.

Tax Law Handbook Updated

The Wisconsin Department of Resources (DNR) Division of Forestry’s Tax Law Section recently updated its Tax Law Handbook.

The Tax Law Handbook instructs staff and professional partners, including Cooperating Foresters and Certified Plan Writers, on implementing statutes and rules at a specifically technical level.

Program overview and reference information, compliance procedures for mandatory practices, and voluntary compliance agreements were updated, revised and posted for public comment for 21 days ending Jan. 19, 2022.

View the final updated Forest Tax Law Handbook.

The DNR considered each comment received and valued stakeholder input. As a result of stakeholder comments, no changes were made. Tax law staff sent a response email to each person that commented.

Fifteen written comments were received from 14 individuals. Most of the comments (13 of 15) were regarding the Mandatory Practice Compliance Procedures changes in Chapter 601, focusing on introducing a three-year limit for practices to have a status of services accepted, meaning professional forestry services are secured, and why it might be problematic due to difficult harvests and lack of markets.

Nevertheless, the comments received described instances and provided examples of DNR’s flexibility despite difficult sales and lack of markets. The DNR remains flexible in maintaining communicative and cooperative landowners in compliance.

There is a limit on how long practices could use a status of services accepted to keep remain compliant.

With an active cutting notice, there is no limit on how long practices can be compliant. A cutting notice is generally required when merchantable trees are cut on Managed Forest Law (MFL) or Forest Crop Law (FCL) land.

Information on cutting notices is available here.

The DNR will renew cutting notices as long as the landowner communicates with the department and has a credible plan to complete the practice in a reasonable amount of time.

Learn more about other Division of Forestry stakeholder input opportunities.

Annual State Forest Property Plans Available

Each spring, Wisconsin State Forests develop Annual Property Implementation Plans (APIPs) and Monitoring Reports identifying the major scheduled and completed forest and habitat management treatments, recreation and infrastructure developments and other property management actions.

These plans are shared with the public online for review, questions, and comment; fiscal year 2023 APIPs are now available on the DNR website.

All planned treatments and developments in the annual plans are approved and consistent with the property master plans developed with additional public input. Annual Property Implementation Plans do not include routine maintenance or minor actions including mowing, building maintenance, inventory or field surveys.

Comments on APIPs can be directed to the property manager.

It’s Wildfire Prevention Week! Do You Know Where Wildfires Occur In Wisconsin?

By Catherine Koele, DNR Wildfire Prevention Specialist

It’s a fact – wildfires do happen in Wisconsin! Spring is wildfire season in the Great Lakes region, and the third week of April is designated Wildfire Prevention Week (April 17-23, 2022). Visit the DNR’s Wildfire Dashboard to view real-time and historic wildfires throughout the areas where the DNR has forest fire protection responsibility. They may happen more often and closer to your backyard than you think!

Continue reading “It’s Wildfire Prevention Week! Do You Know Where Wildfires Occur In Wisconsin?”

Kiln Drying In The Lake States – What Happens Inside A Lumber Dry Kiln

By Scott Bowe, Professor of Wood Products at the University of Wisconsin’s Kemp Station and Scott Lyon, DNR Forest Products Specialist, Green Bay

The Great Lake States region produces some of the best hardwood and softwood lumber globally. Most of us have driven by a sawmill or concentration yard and have seen lumber dry kilns — rows of large rectangular buildings with massive doors.

What goes on inside these kilns? What value is added during drying? How many days does it take to dry lumber? Why dry lumber at all?

We dry lumber for several reasons. The first is to prevent fungal degradation and insect attack—a tree in the forest lives in a tough world. Decay fungi, stain fungi and insects are always looking for their chance to use the tree for a food source, home or both. Continue reading “Kiln Drying In The Lake States – What Happens Inside A Lumber Dry Kiln”

New Technology Highlighted In Publication

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forest Products Services recently worked with UW-Extension and the Department of Agriculture Forest Products Lab to develop a technical primer highlighting vacuum drying technologies for lumber manufacturing.

This research was completed by using the vacuum kiln at Northcentral Technical College. Vacuum drying technology has recently gained attention in Wisconsin because of the availability of lower-cost vacuum kilns for smaller wood product manufacturers.

Vacuum drying utilizes a pressure vessel, a heat source and a vacuum pump to control the drying conditions under less-than-atmospheric pressure. This process is an economical alternative to conventional drying for many species under various environmental and economic conditions.

Vacuum drying can reduce drying time and be more energy-efficient than conventional steam drying. However, there are many factors to consider when comparing the two technologies. Ideal applications for vacuum kilns include high-value wood species, difficult-to-dry species (e.g. oak), timbers, large sections of logs and lumber (including live-edge slabs and wooden rounds), decorative or thick veneer and small-scale woodworking operations.

The new report describes the principles and practices of vacuum drying and discusses its advantages and disadvantages. To learn more about this technology and drying lumber, please view the recent technical report by visiting this webpage.

Lake States Woodshed Mapping Project

A group of researchers and Extension professionals from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are working on a “Woodsheds” mapping project (similar to the concept of a watershed) to develop an interactive web-based mapping application they hope will be useful for forest landowners, forestry professionals, and wood products industry professionals. A 5-10 minute survey is intended to find out what your information needs are, and to see if you’d like to be part of a user testing group that helps them refine this tool. Direct any survey questions to ehuff@msu.edu. Please use this link to complete the survey by April 18th:
https://msu.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bQTG51T8YwRmUM6

Restoring Coastal Wetlands With Low-Value Woody Material

By Scott Lyon, DNR Forest Products Specialist, Green Bay

Conservation partners, including Ducks Unlimited, Wisconsin DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, City of Green Bay and UW-Green Bay, worked together to construct a woody breakwater to restore and enhance wetlands for wildlife and more.

The project took place in fall 2021 at the mouth of Duck Creek, offshore from the Ken Euers Nature Area in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The project involved several years of planning that brought together a team of fish and wildlife biologists, wetland and aquatic plant scientists, foresters and engineers to discuss ideas and plans to restore wetland vegetation in the Duck Creek Delta.

Steve Kaufman, DNR Forester on the Oconto Falls team, and Scott Lyon, DNR Forest Products Specialist with Forest Products Services, participated in technical advisory committee meetings and assisted in connecting the project coordinators with woody materials to be used in the structure.

The resulting breakwater structures were predominantly trees rather than a traditional breakwall composed of mostly rock and is one of the first for the bay of Green Bay and the broader Great Lakes system. Continue reading “Restoring Coastal Wetlands With Low-Value Woody Material”