Reforestation News

Free Seedlings For Wisconsin Fourth-Graders

sugar maple seedlings

One-year-old sugar maple seedlings growing in Wisconsin nursery bed.

Every year since 1984, Wisconsin 4th-grade students have been eligible to receive a free tree seedling from DNR state nurseries to complement their Arbor Day observations. The application period for the “2022-23 Arbor Day Free Tree Seedlings for Wisconsin 4th Graders” is now open. School principals, 4th-grade teachers and 4th-grade homeschool parents are encouraged to visit the DNR’s tree planting webpage to order seedlings for Wisconsin 4th-grade students.

The seedlings will be shipped next spring in time for Arbor Day celebrations.  They come with a plastic bag for protection and instructions on how to plant and care for them. Planting a seedling and watching it grow can be a great learning tool for students. Find ideas for planning an Arbor Day celebration on this DNR webpage.

If you have any questions about the free seedling program for Wisconsin 4th-graders, please contact Carey Skerven at the Griffith State Nursery (Carey.Skerven@wisconsin.gov).

DNR Accepting Seedling Orders For Spring 2023 Starting Oct. 3

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will accept seedling orders from Wisconsin landowners for planting trees and shrubs in spring 2023 starting Oct. 3, 2022. The high-quality seedlings are native species appropriate for planting throughout Wisconsin and grown at the F.G. Wilson State Nursery in Boscobel.

Seedlings grown by the state nurseries are used for reforestation and conservation plantings on private, public and tribal lands. These seedlings can provide future forest products and revenues, wildlife habitat, soil erosion control, living snow fences, carbon sequestration, aesthetics and shade to landowners and managers in every county. Continue reading “DNR Accepting Seedling Orders For Spring 2023 Starting Oct. 3”

Preliminary Seedling Availability From The Wisconsin DNR Reforestation Program For Spring 2023 Planting

Proper tree planting requires a lot of decision-making, and one of those decisions is which species and age are the most appropriate and cost-effective to plant. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Reforestation Program is taking some of the unknowns out of that process by giving landowners and property managers an early peek at the seedlings we anticipate having available in fall 2022 for planting in spring 2023.

This list is preliminary, as some species may be added or removed depending on health, growth and other factors as the growing season progresses.

These tree and shrub seedlings will be available to purchase starting Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Even with the expected high demand, we anticipate having a variety of species and ages available to all customers. Continue reading “Preliminary Seedling Availability From The Wisconsin DNR Reforestation Program For Spring 2023 Planting”

A Legacy Of Tree Planting

Near Boscobel, the Wilson State Forest Nursery was a beehive of activity through the month of April. Walking row after row of small trees, behind a harvesting machine, crew members carefully lifted seedlings from soil so as to not damage roots. Overseeing the operation is Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Reforestation Team Leader Joe Vande Hey.

“We’re looking at about three-and-a-half million trees this year,” he says proudly. “We sold just about everything we have, and I’m anticipating sales to increase probably to the five-million range over the next couple of years.”

Wisconsin’s Reforestation Program grows high-quality, reasonably priced, native-tree seedlings and shrubs to plant on private and public lands for conservation. It has a rich history dating back to 1911 when the state’s first tree nursery was planted. Over the decades, 1.6 billion seedlings have been supplied to landowners.

Vande Hey says Wisconsin’s pledge to plant 75 million trees by 2030 is part of the reason he has a positive outlook for growth over the next couple of years. “It’s definitely putting an emphasis back on tree planting. It sparks interest and that’s going to mean an increase in sales.”

Providing future forest products, improving wildlife habitat, preventing soil erosion are all motivating the effort, but now more so than ever, there’s a focus on removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as outlined in Wisconsin’s Statewide Forest Action Plan.

As it turns out, carbon sequestration and carbon storage are two things our forests do very well. Protecting the planet by fighting climate change is a cause that continues to grow in popularity.

Vande Hey explained, “Trees tie up carbon, so the more forested land we have, the more carbon we can capture. Private landowners definitely see the benefit and want to be recognized for helping plant trees.”

He says 60 to 70% of stock grown in state nurseries is being shipped to private forest landowners, such as the FitzRandolph family featured in this video.

The nursery sells 30 to 40 different species, a mix of hardwoods, conifers, and shrubs: generally red, white and jack pines, white spruce, oaks and maples.

Emerald ash borer is causing “a pretty good shift” for orders to some areas, Vande Hey said, with alternative species like white oak, red maple, tamarack and cedar going to areas where ash trees once flourished. More species changes are on the horizon, not because of emerald ash borer, but due to global warming.

“We’re starting to play with species typically found only in southern Wisconsin, trees we historically didn’t grow a lot of that might be planted in other areas of the state, or even species that historically don’t come into Wisconsin,” Vande Hey said. “Trees native to Illinois, Iowa and Indiana, where it’s a bit warmer.”

Whatever the species, the seedlings will be planted to regenerate acreage where trees have been harvested or going into the ground where forests have been absent.

“Some forest landowners are planting through the Conservation Reserve Program – taking crop ground that is highly erodible and putting it into more permanent cover. There are a good number of seedlings being planted under hardwoods, particularly in southern Wisconsin where they’re not getting the natural oak regeneration that they desire.”

Wherever seedlings are headed, he says Wisconsin’s reforestation program has the capacity to meet increased demands, now motivated to a large extent by climate change.

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.

DNR To Accept Seedling Orders For The Spring Starting Oct. 4, 2021

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Forestry’s reforestation program will accept seedling orders from Wisconsin forest landowners for trees and shrubs to be planted in spring 2022 starting Oct. 4, 2021. The high-quality seedlings are native species appropriate for planting throughout Wisconsin.

Seedlings grown by the state nurseries are used for reforestation and conservation plantings on private, public and tribal lands. These seedlings can provide future forest products and revenues, wildlife habitat, soil erosion control, living snow fences, aesthetics and shade to landowners and managers in every state county. Continue reading “DNR To Accept Seedling Orders For The Spring Starting Oct. 4, 2021”

Preliminary Seedling Availability: Spring 2022

Proper tree planting requires a lot of decision-making. One of those decisions is which species and age are the most appropriate and cost-effective to plant. The Wisconsin Reforestation Program would like to take some of the unknowns out of that process by giving landowners and property managers an early peek at what we anticipate having available in fall 2021 for planting in spring 2022.

This list is preliminary, as some species may be added or subtracted depending on health, growth and other factors as the growing season progresses. Tree and shrub seedlings will be available to purchase on the first Monday of October (Oct. 4, 2021). Even with the expected high demand, we anticipate having various species and ages available to all customers.

The quantity designations are relative to a particular species based on historical sales and projected demand. For example, typically white pine 3-0 sales are about 250,000 seedlings. In 2022, the available quantity, due to several factors, including increased demand in 2021 for 2-year-old seedlings and a lower than anticipated seed germination in 2020, is approximately 75% of the anticipated need. Hence the quantity will be referred to as “limited.” In contrast, our balsam fir had an above-average germination, are growing great and the inventory is above the projected sales, hence an “adequate” quantity designation.

  Continue reading “Preliminary Seedling Availability: Spring 2022”

Seedlings Still Available For Spring 2021 Planting

The spring of 2021 has been conducive to seedling harvest at the Wilson State Nursery in Boscobel. The nights have been cool, and the days warm and dry. A few well-timed rain events kept the soil conditions moist but not muddy.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forestry staff and contractors are taking full advantage of the conditions. Regardless of the weather, the staff at the Wilson Nursery is working to harvest, grade and package our home-grown, native trees and shrubs for distribution to landowners across the state.

In our nursery operations, we know how many seedlings are available to sell by sampling a portion of our rows, inputting that data into a formula and then estimating inventories. Sometimes we underestimate, and sometimes we over estimate. Most of the time, we are close.

We learn how accurate we are when we harvest and grade those seedlings in the spring. This year, we have some species that had much healthier volumes than anticipated.

For those still interested in creating wildlife habitat, starting a plantation for future wood production, stabilizing an erodible bank or field, or adding to the landscape’s aesthetic beauty, the Wisconsin reforestation program may be able to help.

We still have inventories of jack and red pine, white spruce, red oak, black walnut and various wildlife shrubs. Plus, other species may become available. All are well suited for the soils of Wisconsin. Contact our nursery hotline at 715-424-3700 for up-to-date information on seedling availability and to place an order.

Seedlings sold by the Wisconsin state nurseries are to be used for reforestation, wildlife habitat and windbreak and erosion control purposes and must be planted in Wisconsin. The minimum order is a packet of 300 seedlings, 500 shrubs or 1,000 seedlings. Seedlings need to be picked up at the Wilson, Griffith or Hayward nurseries.

You can find answers to the most common questions about tree planting on this DNR web page or contact Jeremiah Auer, DNR Regeneration Specialist.

Seedlings Still Available for Spring 2021 Planting

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) still has native tree and shrub seedlings available for spring planting.

Conifers available include jack pine 1-0 and 2-0, red pine 3-0, white pine 2-0 and tamarack 2-0. The pines tend to grow fast and perform the best in well-drained soils. The tamarack can grow in wetter soils. All are great for providing thermal cover to wildlife in the winter or privacy along a property line.

Hardwoods include river and white birch, black cherry, hackberry, silver maple, bur and red oaks, sycamore and black walnut. Many of these hardwoods provide forage or mast for wildlife and grow quickly in fertile soils.

Black cherry will begin producing fruit as soon as five years and aspen and birch provide buds for grouse even faster. The oaks and walnut take a while to produce acorns and nuts, but they will supply wildlife with food for many years once they begin. The silver maple, hackberry and sycamore thrive in wetter soils, giving those in heavy clay or lowland sites an opportunity for arboreal cover.

Consider talking to a DNR forester to get more information on tree planting and forest management. A good planting plan can focus a landowner’s efforts and create a strategy to achieve all their property goals. Find a forester near you using the DNR’s Forestry Assistance Locator webpage

For up-to-date information on seedling availability, please contact the state nursery at 715-424-3700. To order seedlings, print off a seedling application form here.  To have the ordering form sent to your residence, please contact a DNR forester near you or nursery staff.

Seedlings sold by the Wisconsin DNR are only for planting in Wisconsin and for reforestation, wildlife habitat and windbreak and erosion control purposes.

For more information about tree planting in Wisconsin using seedlings from state nurseries, please review our Frequently Asked Questions.

Seedling sales begin October 5

Are you planning to plant trees next spring? The DNR-Division of Forestry’s reforestation program will be accepting orders from Wisconsin forest landowners for tree and shrub seedlings starting October 5, 2020. The high-quality seedlings are native species appropriate for planting throughout Wisconsin.

Seedlings grown by the state nurseries are used for reforestation and conservation plantings on private, industrial, state and county forest lands. They can provide future forest products and revenue, wildlife habitat and fodder, soil erosion control, living snow fences and other benefits. Continue reading “Seedling sales begin October 5”