Division of Forestry News

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.

Continue reading “Wisconsin DNR’s Forest Health Program: 71 years of getting the bugs out”

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.

Continue reading “The evolving landscape of invasive species and their control options in Wisconsin”

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.

Continue reading “Impacts and management of the invasive emerald ash borer”

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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“Spring” into action with invasives in focus

By Paul Cigan, plant pest and disease specialist, Paul.Cigan@wisconsin.gov, 715-416-4920

One of the most amazing aspects of living in Wisconsin, with its four seasons of ever-changing natural beauty, is the re-awakening of plant life every spring. Whether you’re a gardener, sportsperson or casual observer on a walk, it’s hard to overlook the floral sea of white trilliums, the bee-frenzied blooms of a crabapple, or even the mere greening up of turf grass. These spring advances usher in a sense of re-awakening of a sleepy plant world and assure us that summer will once again come.

While recently out on a spring hike in northern Wisconsin, my eyes were drawn to the bright green glow of emerging understory plants. Making my way closer, my initial excitement was offset by the disappointment of seeing what I quickly realized was in fact garlic mustard—an increasingly common and problematic exotic, invasive understory plant. Although garlic mustard is perhaps the “poster” plant for invasive plant awareness, the unfortunate reality is that it is just one of hundreds of invasive species that continue to spread into our forests.

The spring green-up of garlic mustard may look pretty but this invasive species is not good news for Wisconsin forests or the people who manage them. Credit: Duluth CISMA.

Continue reading ““Spring” into action with invasives in focus”

Preliminary findings are promising first step in control of jumping worms

By Bernie Williams, plant pest and disease specialist, Bernadette.Williams@wisconsin.gov, 608-444-6948

Invasive earthworms in the genus Amynthas, more commonly known as “jumping worms,” were first identified in Dane County in 2013 and have since been reported in 45 of the state’s 72 counties. Verified species in Wisconsin are Amynthas tokioensis, A. agrestis, and the closely related Metaphire hilgandorfi, first identified in September 2017. A. tokioensis is the most common of the three species. A. agrestis typically appears in combination with A. tokioensis but rarely on its own.

Adult jumping worms are identified by their dark brown color and smooth, milky-white band near head.

Continue reading “Preliminary findings are promising first step in control of jumping worms”

Tree-killing fungus investigated at Kettle Moraine State Forest

By Kyoko Scanlon, forest pathologist, Kyoko.Scanlon@wisconsin.gov, 608-235-7532 and Mike Hillstrom, forest health specialist, Fitchburg, Michael.Hillstrom@wisconsin.gov, 608-513-7690

Less than a one-hour drive from Milwaukee, Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit (KMSU) offers more than 22,000 acres of glacial hills, kettles, lakes, prairie restoration sites, pine woods and hardwood forests. KMSU is one of Wisconsin’s most visited state properties with over 100 miles of mountain biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling and hiking trails. In addition to its ecological and recreational value, KMSU remains a productive and sustainable forest that supports the forest products industry in southern Wisconsin.

Aerial view of KMSU including Ottawa Lake on left.

Continue reading “Tree-killing fungus investigated at Kettle Moraine State Forest”