Intermediate treatments


One of the key learnings from last year’s forest productivity tour series is that “intermediate treatments can be an effective tool for increasing forest productivity…as long as we don’t go overboard.”  Last week, the Aitkin County Land Department hosted a tour that focused on their experiences of applying intermediate treatments in a variety of forest types.  Katie Fernholz of Dovetail Partners, Inc. produced a 10-minute video summary of the tour that you can watch by clicking here.  A written summary and photos can be found below.

Many thanks to Aitkin County Land Department and the Forest Guild for co-sponsoring this event with the Blandin Foundation!

Written Summary of the Tour

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Scandinavia2I wrote yesterday about Dovetail Partner Inc.’s new report, The Power of Silviculture, promoting intermediate treatments as silvilculture that provides win-win outcomes for the forests, forest economy, and forest-reliant communities. Monday’s DuluthNews Tribune featured a front page article making the same case through the practices of logger Mike Zauhar, an independent logger practicing in St. Louis County and elsewhere in the region. Zauhar has reengineered his John Deere logging tractor to be lighter on the land, and is using it to experiment with intermediate treatments that increase the forests’ productivity and timber values. As Zauhar told DNT, “We don’t need to go to Europe to learn forestry ideas… We want it so Europeans are coming here to learn.” Way to go, Mike!

ScandinaviaThey are rare in the often rough and tumble world of forest policy and practice, but sometimes it’s possible to point to tools that are especially helpful in delivering multiple public benefits from our forest resources – tools that are true silver bullets.

As described in a Dovetail Partners, Inc. report just out, The Power of Silviculture: Employing Thinning, Partial Cutting Systems and Other Intermediate Treatments to Increase Productivity, Forest Health and Public Support for Forestry, intermediate treatments have the potential to be a silviculturalists’ silver bullet.

Authored by Jim Bowyer and other Dovetail Partners, Inc. staff, the report is one of the products of Vital Forests/Vital Communities 2009 study tour project, Seeing the Forest AND the Trees: How to Make the Most of Minnesota’s Woods. As the report’s title suggests, a key “take away” from the study tours was the ability of intermediate treatments to increase multiple benefits – social, economic, and environmental – forests offer, AND increase public support for forestry. Blandin Foundation commissioned the report to support the work of one of the tour’s follow-on action teams, this one focused on the goal of increasing the use of intermediate treatments in Minnesota across ownerships.

As noted in the report, “There is now a considerable body of knowledge that suggests that wider adoption of intermediate treatments could increase both forest productivity and forest health. The possibility that public interest in and support for forestry might also be enhanced provides a win-win combination that could improve the outlook for profitable production of diversified forest products, including biomass in renewable energy production.”

When I put a copy into the hands of DNR State Forester Dave Epperly, who came by the Foundation today for a meeting with USFS Region Nine Forester Kent Connaughton, he brightened. “We at the DNR have been trying to increase the use of these treatments for several years; this report will help us make the case for why.”

Greg Nolan of Snowy Pines Reforestation near Browerville, MN responded to my pre-Forest Values/Carbon Markets blog post with some innovative ideas of his own.

Translating it into my own words, Greg is suggesting a hands-on training program for noncollege-bound rural youth that could be the “boots-on-the-ground” talent needed for more best-practice silviculture on more acres, including especially family forests.

This vision strikes me as pretty aligned with one of the recommendations from our Nordic Tour: to increase the use of intermediate treatments in Minnesota. What I find so appealing about Greg’s idea is that it would not only increase the use of intermediate treatments (read his post for a great description of all of the silvicultural good he’s doing with a simple chain saw and brush cutter), but catalyze local entrepreneurship and engage rural youth “left behind” by traditional college and university programs.

His talk of intermediate treatments as “weeding” reminded me of the “forest weeding” machine that our Nordic Tour participants saw demonstrated in Finland.

We also saw a guy in the woods with a chain saw, employed by UPM to do the very sort of management Greg is calling for in his proposal I asked Cheryl Adams about this, and she reported that the Blandin Mill does some of the same kind of work on their land here in Itasca County at a rate of 2-3 acres/day/person for releasing very young trees (“cleaning”) and 1-2 acres/day/person for pre-commercial thinning.

What do others think about Greg’s idea and the viability of creating a market among family forest land owners for this approach to timber stand improvement/intermediate treatments?