Division of Forestry News

New Chief State Forester Named

Heather Berklund, Chief State Forester, Wisconsin DNR

Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole announced that the department’s new Chief State Forester will be Heather Berklund, effective October 12. Her office will continue to be in Rhinelander and her contact information will remain the same (phone: 608-598-9068; email: Heather.Berklund@Wisconsin.gov).

Heather brings years of on-the-ground Wisconsin forest management and fire control experience to her new position.  She began her forestry career with the Wisconsin DNR in 2000, serving as a field forester in Merrill, Crandon and Mercer for more than a decade before becoming the Ashland-Iron team leader and then the Woodruff area leader in 2016.  In her role as the Deputy Division Administrator of Field Operations for the past three years, Heather led the public and private lands programs, Good Neighbor Authority partnership coordination, forest certification, tax law, and fire protection programs.

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Spotlight on Wisconsin Forests during Forest Products Week

What do wood products research, urban wood products and school forests have in common? They are among the many engaging Wisconsin stories shared in new episodes of the national TV program America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell

While he may be best known as the keyboardist and musical director for The Rolling Stones, Chuck Leavell is also an educated and enthusiastic forestry advocate, conservationist and woodland owner and he explores Wisconsin forests in these new episodes. The two-part Wisconsin series will be featured in a virtual premeire event during Forest Products Week on Wednesday, October 21 at 6:30 p.m. 

This free, online gathering, hosted by the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison, will bring together thought leaders to engage in a rousing conversation on the critical importance and value of well-managed public and private forest lands in Wisconsin. And you are invited to participate!

Registration for the virtual premiere and screening of the episodes is available online at go.wisc.edu/talesfilmseries2020. Links to attend the virtual premiere event and to view the episodes in advance will be emailed to all who register.

At the October 21 virtual premiere event, Leavell will be joined by Heather Berklund (Forestry Division Administrator with the Wisconsin DNR), Tony Ferguson (Director of the Forest Products Laboratory for the USDA Forest Service), Buddy Huffaker (Executive Director of the Aldo Leopold Foundation),  Henry Schienebeck (Executive Director of Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association) and Adena Rissman (Associate Professor at UW-Madison, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology). The panel will be moderated by James Edward Mills of the Nelson Institute at UW-Madison.  Don’t miss this chance to hear from the panelists about the importance of Wisconsin forests to the ecological, social, cultural and economic well-being of our state and local communities.

Leavell serves as the on-camera guide for the TV show, interviewing people who are passionate about the gifts we get from our woods and exploring creative solutions to complex problems impacting this important natural resource. Other topics Leavell explores in the Wisconsin episodes include ruffed grouse, the sustainable forestry practices on the Menominee Tribal forests, and the biodiversity of the Baraboo Hills.

Celebrate Wisconsin’s Working Forests

Forest Products Week (celebrated on October 18-24, 2020) recognizes the people who work in and care for our forests, the businesses that create forest products and the many ways forest products contribute to our lives. In addition to celebrating the positive impact of Wisconsin’s forest products sector on the state’s economy, Forest Products Week recognizes the myriad forest products ingrained in our daily lives.

Facts to celebrate:

  • Forest products contribute $24.4 billion annually to the state’s economy.
  • Forests directly provide more than 60,000 jobs for Wisconsin residents with a payroll of $4.2 billion.
  • Forestry is the number one employer in 7 counties.
  • Every forestry job supports 1.7 additional jobs in the state.
  • More than 1,200 forest products companies in Wisconsin make products we use every day – from paper products such as food packaging, fine writing paper and tissue paper, to lumber used for homes and furniture.
  • Emerging forest products such as mass timber, nanocellulose and biochemicals are beginning to unlock innovative uses for wood that may help the state’s industry further diversify in the future.

The Wisconsin DNR-Division of Forestry is proud to help Wisconsin’s forest industry build and maintain strong markets while ensuring that forests remain a vital part of the state’s economy and culture for future generations. To learn more, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for “forest businesses.”

Forestry operations in response to COVID-19

The Division of Forestry offers the following update regarding our operations in response to the ongoing pandemic.

Most employees have been working remotely since mid-March to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to employees, their families and our external partners during this global pandemic.

While the goal is to gradually increase in-person activities that support our mission and Wisconsin’s economy, safety remains a top concern. Therefore, state office buildings, including DNR facilities, remain closed to the public. Although a limited number of gatherings may be approved, virtual meetings continue to be the preferred method for DNR staff and travel remains limited to essential and high-priority work. The majority of DNR staff continue to work remotely, although forestry fieldwork has fully resumed.

If you are planning to meet with a DNR forestry employee in person, such as a site visit for a forest management plan, they will be maintaining a distance of at least six feet, traveling to sites individually to maintain the required social distancing, wearing a mask and following diligent cleaning and disinfecting guidelines.

Thank you for your patience as we continue to safeguard the health of our customers, partners and employees.

Seeking feedback on draft chapters of bat HCP

Cave-dwelling bat populations in Wisconsin are rapidly declining due to a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome. Some species may soon be listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). In preparation for this listing, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is teaming up with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to develop a large-scale Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).

The purpose of this HCP is to obtain a federal incidental take permit under ESA section 10 requesting authorization for the incidental take of bats during forest management activities. The goal of this project is the protection of federally endangered bat species and the continuation of forest management activities in the Lake States.

The Wisconsin DNR will use the HCP to guide forest management activities on DNR-administered land. County, municipal and private landowners may also choose to participate in the plan as a way to continue forest management activities while remaining in compliance with the ESA. Continue reading “Seeking feedback on draft chapters of bat HCP”

Wisconsin DNR’s Forest Health Program: 71 years of getting the bugs out

By Andrea Diss Torrance, invasive insects program coordinator, andrea.disstorrance@wisconsin.gov, 608-516-2223 and Bill McNee, forest health specialist, Oshkosh, Bill.Mcnee@wisconsin.gov, 920-360-0942

Wisconsin has a long history of forestry management, with a state program beginning in 1904 that later expanded in 1949 to include the survey and management of forest pests. The first state forest entomologist, Norbert Underwood, was hired that year. Nearly ten years later, Mr. Underwood was joined by a forest health program coordinator and three additional forest entomologists. The entomologists were based in Spooner, Antigo, Oshkosh and Black River Falls, while the coordinator, and later a pathologist, were stationed at the forest health lab in Fitchburg.

First state forest entomologist, Norbert Underwood, was hired in 1949.

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Forest health staff fight forest pests

By Mike Hillstrom, forest health specialist, Fitchburg, Michael.Hillstrom@wisconsin.gov, 608-513-7690

Wisconsin forests are impacted by a large variety of native and non-native insects, diseases, plants and worms. Extreme weather events like last year’s widespread blowdown incident also have significant impacts to the health of Wisconsin’s forests. The role of a forest health specialist is to assess forest damage caused by biotic and abiotic agents and provide management recommendations to return the forest to full function.

Forest health specialists discussing symptomatic red pine trees while on a site visit.

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The evolving landscape of invasive species and their control options in Wisconsin

By Andrea Diss Torrance, invasive insects program coordinator, andrea.disstorrance@wisconsin.gov, 608-516-2223

Many people know that invasive species are a concern in Wisconsin’s natural communities both on land and in water. But fewer people are aware that invasive species are not a new threat and that over time, we have developed strategies to reduce their spread and limit their damage to a tolerable level.

As soon as people from other continents started arriving in Wisconsin, so did the non-native plants, insects and microorganisms that came with them. Most of these non-native species are either beneficial or cause no harm, including well-known examples like honeybees, daffodils and even the bacteria used in cheese production. In contrast, the non-native species that damage native and domestic plants are known as invasive species, and over the years people have developed policies and practices to limit their impacts to native plant communities.

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Impacts and management of the invasive emerald ash borer

By Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff, Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov, 920-360-0665

Emerald ash borer (EAB) was first identified in Wisconsin in 2008, although it was likely present in the state for a few years prior to detection. Since EAB doesn’t travel far on its own, some experts think it was unknowingly brought into the state on infested firewood, which is a common introduction pathway for many insects and diseases. The Wisconsin DNR Firewood page has more info on firewood and the insects and diseases that can travel on it.

Since its arrival in Wisconsin, EAB has steadily killed ash trees wherever it has been found. As of the writing of this article, there has been much more ash tree mortality in the southern half of Wisconsin than the northern half of the state where known EAB infestations are still widely scattered.

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Blue ash: Wisconsin’s little-known ash tree

By Bill McNee, forest health specialist, Oshkosh, Bill.Mcnee@wisconsin.gov, 920-360-0942

Many people interested in trees know about Wisconsin’s white, green and black ash species. However, there’s a fourth species that fewer people know about. Blue ash, Fraxinus quadrangulata, occurs naturally only at a few sites in Waukesha County. It can easily be identified by the cork ridges on the twigs, which give them a four-sided, square appearance. The tree was given its name because of the blue dye that is produced by soaking the inner bark in water.

Four-sided, square twig of a blue ash. Photo by Bill McNee.

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