Salvage operations from July tornadoes require careful yet urgent action: DNR foresters

Highest priority is to clear vulnerable downed pine

Damage in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (Photo courtesy of USFS)

RHINELANDER, Wis. -- Wisconsin forest officials continue to emphasize best forest practices for those managing woodlands hit by the late July storms that downed huge swaths of timber and have had a major market impact.

The highest priority for salvage cleanup after the widespread destruction in northern Wisconsin is to clear downed pine, according to Linda Williams, a forest health specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Most vulnerable are pine that are broken off, which can be attacked by pine beetles within just one week.

Williams and several other officials presented an update on the storm cleanup to the

Wisconsin County Forests Association meeting on September 27 in Rhinelander. They explained that DNR officials from across the organization were active in clearing woods and roads, advising landowners and offering help throughout the 286,000 acres affected by the storms.

Langlade County was heavily hit, with 19,000 acres in the main damage path of a tornado.

Harvest operations had been carried out on 5,000 acres by September 23, barely more than two months after the storms. More than 200 miles of roads were also affected in the county.

The forest service has reported damage to 65,000 acres of its land and land managed under its Good Neighbor Authority program, (more on the Good Neighbor Authority program), according to the DNR.

Williams said that the next priority is to clear pine trees that are damaged, but not broken. “The sooner the better” because the timber will be affected by blue stain, which reduces its value, Williams explained.

Areas of pine affected by this damage should not be replanted for at least one year, according to Williams, to prevent seedlings from being impacted by the remnant disease or infestation from damaged trees.

Aspen that was blown into a leaning position may live, Williams said. Some will straighten over time and some will just continue to lean until harvest or end of life. As such, it is not the same priority as pine affected by the storms.

Some state logging contracts will be extended for one year in an effort to free up loggers to carry out critical clean up and salvage operations, according to Carmen Hardin, applied forestry

bureau director for the agency. Extensions would apply to loggers who move to conduct cleanup and salvage work.

Despite the urgency of the clean up, harvest operations need to be conducted at a slow and careful pace because of safety issues, according to Alex Anderson, a forest products specialist at the DNR. The forests contain thousands of broken, but standing trees that can pose severe risks.

But also there are unseen stresses in trees that appear undamaged. People working in the affected forests need to “slow things down” and proceed very cautiously, Anderson said.

A hardwood tree with severe but invisible damage can shatter on the ground minutes after it has been felled creating a risk for anyone neary.

See more on specific species affects and how to approach your forest in the sidebar story here:


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