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Jeannine Richards, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Ed Pembleton

Contents Introduction.............................................................................................................................................2 Where does my land fit in the big picture?.......................................................................4 My woods are a whole system....................................................................................................9 What types of woods do I have?............................................................................................16 Managing change in my woods..............................................................................................28 Harvesting my trees for today and tomorrow............................................................30 Invasive species in my woods...................................................................................................40 Prescribed fire: A hot topic........................................................................................................50 Wildlife depend on my woods.................................................................................................56 Earth’s changing climate and my woods.........................................................................60 Planning...Do I need to?...............................................................................................................63 Thinking long-term: What are my opportunities?...................................................70 Financial support for action.......................................................................................................74 Afterward: Where do my woods and I end up?..........................................................82 Handbook partners: Put them to work for you.........................................................84

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

What do you enjoy about your woods? A quiet escape, a great hunt, the smell of fallen leaves, valuable trees, morel mushrooms, seeing animal tracks, sharing time with your family in nature? Each of these rewards— physical, economic, and emotional—is the The landscape of any product of a good relationship between you and farm is the owner’s your land. This handbook is about building that relationship. portrait of himself. Southeastern Minnesota is a rapidly changing landscape, and this handbook aims to help you better understand the issues facing your woods. We hope in time this information inspires you to act. If so, start simply. Each section of the handbook provides a possible starting point for action. Don’t feel you have to do everything. Use the information to figure out what actions will work best in your woods and to prioritize where to start.

Aldo Leopold, “The Farmer as a Conservationist,” (1939)

You will find that you go through different stages in your relationship with your land. Simple observations and experiences such as seeing wildlife, finding a big tree, hearing birds singing, picking out a hunting spot, or enjoying fall colors all can lead you to be attracted to your land. At this point, the relationship is usually effortless with very few expectations beyond what is freely given. 2

After you have successfully worked through problems with your land, you reach a stage of cooperation. The emphasis shifts from “me” to “we.” You’ll find that you begin to choose actions that are more acceptable to both you and the land. For example, you choose to plant tree species well suited for the site, even when it’s a compromise from what you had originally wanted. This stage can lead to lasting solutions for both people and land. All of the practices in this handbook are aimed at finding ways of cooperating with your woods. Timber harvest ideas, invasive species control, and prescribed burning all create actions that benefit your land and promote values that may be important to you, such as natural beauty, wildlife, hunting, and economic returns—the rewards of a mutually beneficial relationship. Jeannine Richards, Aldo Leopold Foundation


As your expectations for your land grow, the relationship begins to demand a little more effort on your part. Expectations can lead to conflicts between your vision and your land, and there is a need to resolve those differences. You might want things that the land is not capable of providing. For example, you may struggle to establish tree species in an area where they are poorly suited. As expectations grow, planning ahead can help ensure that your relationship to your land doesn’t fall apart when the going gets tough.

After years of cooperating, you begin to feel a sense of commitment to your land. At this point, you are comfortable in the relationship. You know your land, warts and all, better than anyone. Earlier in the relationship the land’s limitations frustrated you, but now you accept them as boundaries. You and your land have a history, and it is difficult to imagine yourself outside of this relationship. The attachment you feel is a great reward in itself, and the more you continue to work with your land, the richer the other rewards become. 3

If you purchased your land for hunting larger game such as deer and turkey, you may have noticed that these animals move freely between your land and your neighbors’ properties. A particular animal’s habitat (or home) can be over a much larger area than the land you own. Non-game species, such as songbirds, may rely on a certain area of tree cover to set up a breeding territory—their territories may be the product of both you and your neighbors’ lands.

The Big Picture Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

If you own woods in southeastern Minnesota, there is a good chance you have purchased your land recently. The recent trend has been toward subdividing large parcels of land into smaller ones, with the average length of land ownership dropping to less than 10 years. More parcels and higher turnover means there are many new landowners on the landscape. The majority of these landowners, and perhaps you, have When land does well for its owner, purchased land for personal and the owner does well by his enjoyment and recreation, such land; when both end up better by as hunting, viewing wildlife, or reason of their partnership, we have for solitude and privacy.

conservation. When one or the other grows poorer, we do not. Aldo Leopold, “The Farmer as a Conservationist,” (1939)

Why do these trends in the region matter to my woods?

The quality of wildlife habitat, spread of unwanted plants, timber management, and resilience to natural variations, among other factors, are all affected when the parcels of land become smaller and are managed by more landowners. All is not lost, yet certain realities should be kept in mind as you develop your relationship to your land.


Small parcels of woods also offer fewer options for timber management. If a successful timber harvest requires extracting a certain volume of wood, it is logical that on a larger piece of land, there are more options for producing that volume than on a smaller parcel. On a smaller parcel, you will likely find yourself having to harvest more trees per acre or combine the sale with neighbors to reach an acceptable economic return.

Jeannine Richards, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Where does my land fit in

Similarly, unwanted plants (which are frequently what we refer to as invasive species) can grow aggressively and spread quickly from property to property. Having many neighboring landowners creates just that many more points of entry for these plants to find your property.

Your woods are constantly changing. Shooting star In simple terms, let’s assume that change can be toward “darker” or “lighter” conditions in your woods. Both are good, natural, and necessary in southeastern Minnesota. “Darker” conditions (more technically, succession) occur naturally as the current trees create shade, favoring the growth of certain types of tree seedlings. For example, maple seedlings grow well in the shade of oak trees, while oak seedlings do not, so oak woods eventually convert to maple woods. “Lighter” conditions (often called disturbance) occur naturally with changes to the current mature trees, increasing the amount of light for tree seedlings. “Lighter” conditions may be created through fire, a timber harvest, or blow down from wind, benefiting oak seedlings over maple 5

Be aware that all woods are not equal—the history of your property (grazing, fire, timber harvesting, etc.) has a great influence on the quality and condition of your woods today. In many cases, the previous landowner created your options and priorities. For example, if your woods previously had all the highest-value trees removed (“high-graded”), you will likely have a good deal of work to make it economically productive again.

Our goal on this farm is simple: leave it better than how we found it.

Why do my woods matter to the region?

The success of wildlife populations are best measured at a regional level. When changes in individual parcels of land start to be Allen Iverson, Dodge County regional trends, wildlife populations begin landowner to reflect those changes. Birds can serve as strong indicators of regional changes because their populations have been studied for a long time at a regional level, and because they have very specific requirements for the places they nest and raise young—if their preferred habitat is not present, their populations will decrease. In southeastern Minnesota, populations of birds that depend on oak woods and oak savanna, for example whip-poor-will, are in sharp decline. As the trend toward “darker” conditions in our woods continues across the region, it also means less oak will be available for harvest. You may have kitchen cabinets or furniture made from oak, and most likely the wood did not come directly from your land, making it difficult to connect our need for wood products with what is happening in the woods somewhere else. But “somewhere else” in southeastern Minnesota, maples and basswood are likely replacing oak because of harvest methods that don’t regenerate oak. Taken across the region, this trend means that the availability of oaks and the businesses that depend on them will have to adapt in coming generations.

Additional Resources Minnesota Forest Resources Council’s Landscape Program, Southeast region:


Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

Why Oak Woods? Attention to oak species is particularly important in southeastern Minnesota. Many people recognize the value of oak trees for uses in furniture and home building, and they provide food for many species of wildlife. Oak acorns are a key food source for resident animals and those that migrate long distances in the fall or spend the winter hibernating, and the trees provide important nesting and shelter habitat as well. Oaks have needs. Having oak trees on your property now does not guarantee they will be there for the next generation. You may observe a bounty of acorn production in the fall and conclude, “Oaks are doing just fine on my land.” Seed production is obviously important, but without the right conditions, those acorns may never grow into new oak trees. If the seeds can’t become trees, you may not see any young oaks growing to maturity in the next generation of your woods. Across southeastern Minnesota, oak is declining. Timber harvests currently remove approximately 30 percent more oak than is replaced each year. Oak trees frequently are not replacing themselves; instead they are being replaced by more shade-tolerant trees like maple and basswood.

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

seedlings. Oak woods in southeastern Minnesota are declining because “darker” conditions are now more common across the landscape.


Observing Change Watch how the tree cover has increased over time by looking at these air photos:


My woods are

1968 Each of these photos show the same piece of land, taken in 1937, 1968, and 1990. The light areas are prairie and the dark areas are trees.


Field exercise: Reading the history of my land Air photos of Minnesota have been taken periodically starting in the late 1930s and continuing through today. You may be able to pull together a series of photos for your property that will give you insight into the history of your land. What you find might surprise you. In many cases, the south- and west-facing hillsides had far fewer trees than today. They were part of the pre-settlement prairies and oak savannas that have now “darkened” into woods. You may be able to distinguish evergreen trees in the photos, too—on south and west slopes these would likely be Eastern red cedars, which have also grown in over areas that once were prairie. Historical air photos may be available for your property online at through the Minnesota DNR’s Landview mapping tool.

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

A Whole System Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

Think of your woods like a car. Just as a car does, your woods function as a whole system made up of parts (also known as an ecosystem). Some parts are critical to how the whole system works, while others are nice to have but have less influence. Nearly every car owner can identify an important part of a car (e.g., engine) from a less influential The first precaution of part (e.g., hubcap). Learning to see the important parts in your woods can help you create priorities.

intelligent tinkering is to keep every cog and wheel.

How are the parts of my woods connected?

Aldo Leopold, “Conservation,” (1946)

A critical part missing in your car can prevent the whole system from working. Certainly, a car without tires is no more capable of getting you to the grocery store than a lawn chair. Likewise, the many important parts of your woods only work when they are connected to each other. Trees, soil, water, sunlight, insects, fungus, and many more parts are all connected, making your woods function as a whole system. If you were to take away one important part—water, for example— the entire character of your woods would change. 9

When troubleshooting a system, it is important to see the connections between all of the parts. For example, if your tires wear out faster than expected, you may want to blame the tire manufacturer, but there are other connections you need to consider first. Tire wear is connected to wheel alignment, driving habits, road conditions, brakes, wheel bearings, and more. Your mechanic, after considering all the connections, may need to inform you that your driving habits are to blame.

Jeannine Richards, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Similarly, to really understand the process of timber production, a forester will consider all of the connecting parts— annual rainfall, tree species, sunlight, nutrients, soil type, and wildlife impacts (e.g., deer browse, rodent girdling)—to determine an appropriate tree harvest and the regeneration methods to follow.

How do I know which parts are important? Some parts of the system are more important than others. To help you determine how significant a part may be, you can ask two questions: 1. Is the part common or unique in the system? Common – there are many in the system.

Unique – there is only one or few in the system. 2. Is the part influential or less influential in the system? Influential – can change the system. Less Influential – does not change the system. Let’s go back to the example of the car. An engine, as a part, is unique (there is only one) and influential (the car will not run without it). Car doors are more common (usually there are more than one) and less influential (car will function without them—although less safely!). Tires are common and influential. You can start to think about the parts of your woods in these terms.

Understanding the parts Unique and Influential: These are usually processes that change the whole system. Examples include fire, timber harvesting, and climate change. 10

Yellow ladyslipper orchids

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Common and Influential: These are generally plants and animals that are numerous and change the whole system. Invasive plants (e.g., garlic mustard), spreading unchecked in your woods, can negatively influence many other species of plants and animals. Unique and Less Influential: These are animals and plants that you rarely find on your property. They may be threatened, endangered, or simply uncommon, such as cerulean warblers, red-headed woodpeckers, yellow ladyslipper orchids, or Blanding’s turtles. A hillside covered in Although these species do not generally have much influence on the whole system, some lady’s slipper orchids is a indicate the health of the whole system (they privilege to own. are often called indicator species). Unique Dale and Suzanne Rohlfing, species are usually only found in healthy Wabasha County landowners systems. Common and Less Influential: This category includes everything else— almost any common animal or plant in the region, including raccoons, squirrels, robins, and many others. No doubt some of these may be important to you as part of your woods that you enjoy, but they are not the focus of this handbook because they generally do not require specific action to be successful and do not greatly influence how your woods function. 11

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

How do I decide which important parts to work on? There are many important parts that make up your woods, and we will not be able to cover everything in the space of this handbook. We have selected the parts that you can act upon and are unique or have the greatest influence on the whole system. As you get to know your woods better and begin to understand the connections between different parts, you can decide which are your highest priorities.

How do these parts fit together in southeastern Minnesota?

To understand how southeastern Minnesota operates as a system, it is helpful to remove the more recent human influences and look back to a point in time often referred to as “pre-settlement”—roughly, prior to the 1840s. Native Americans lived on the land for thousands of years and shaped the landscape through practices such as burning, but European settlement brought new changes, including cities, highways, and agriculture, that have affected the functioning of the whole system. In the pre-settlement landscape, two parts were extremely influential in defining how the whole system worked: landforms (the shape of the land) and fire. The ridges and valleys that cover southeastern Minnesota, were the result of being missed by the glaciers that smoothed and flattened much of the state, combined with the down-cutting force of running water shaping the valleys. The landform was distinguished by south- and west-facing slopes exposed to the sun and prevailing winds, and more sheltered northand east-facing slopes. 12

Fire interacted with landforms to create the plant and animal communities of the pre-settlement landscape. Imagine a wildfire being pushed by a west wind across a landscape with few barriers aside from rivers. The fire would race up the south- and west-facing slopes, scorching any trees growing there, and then move more slowly or die out on the cooler and wetter north and east slopes. Oaks withstand fire better than most trees Field exercise: Traveling in time because of their Take a walk through your woods and see if you thick bark, making can identify the species of the big trees (more them common even mature trees) and the little ones (seedlings where fire was a and saplings) coming up underneath them. regular influence. The These groups of species can tell you a great mosaic of burned and deal about the history of your woods and unburned areas across what your woods will look like in the future. the landscape allowed The trees that are seedlings and saplings today a great diversity of will likely be your woods of tomorrow. woods, savannas, and prairies to develop and be sustained for thousands of years.

What does that history mean for my land today? The influence of fire has probably changed significantly on your land since European settlement. In the Maple trees coming in under oak trees absence of fire, tree species that do not tolerate fire well are able to grow. As a result, in southeastern Minnesota oak woods are being replaced by the maples, elm, hackberry, and cherry that used to only grow in unburned areas. This conversion is a natural process, but it is important to understand what it means for the future of your woods. It is easy to think that today’s mature oaks will be naturally replaced by new oaks, but it is almost never true. To find out what your woods will look like in the future, look at the tree seedlings and saplings of today.

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

Be aware that placement into these categories can sometimes be a matter of opinion or may vary from property to property and over time. What might be unique today could be common or influential in the future. These categories are designed to help you simplify the complex system that is your woods and prioritize your actions.


Brothers Mike and Pete Greenheck fondly remember their father stressing, “when you look at your property as a business, start with conservation.” After inheriting some land from their father and acquiring more on their own, they have It is not how much land they have a richer understanding of what their you have, but what you do father meant: you can’t be successful if you try with what you have that to simplify the land.

is important.

The previous landowner worked hard to Mike Greenheck straighten a meandering stream so the land could be cropped. But forcing something to be simple that is naturally complex didn’t work. Four out of every five years, flooding caused the crops to fail. The channeled water cut steep banks and became muddy with the soil it carried away. When Mike and Pete purchased the property, they quickly saw that neither the stream nor the land were healthy.

Courtesy of Mike Greenheck

The brothers contacted their Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, American Tree Farm System, and Natural Resources Conservation Service staff to generate solutions for their land. They found old photos of the stream corridor that clearly showed the original stream course winding like a snake across their property. With financial and technical assistance from the American Pete, with his terrier Buddy, and Mike, with his lab Forest Foundation’s “Shared Chip, next to a 120-year-old walnut log felled in their woods. Streams” program, they remeandered the stream and reconstructed adjacent wetlands. Today, the stream carries its water slowly back and forth across the valley, allowing time for adjacent wetlands and plants to soak up and retain the floodwaters. The waters now run clear and brook trout reproduce. Pete said, “Sure, we want our land to turn a profit, but we could tell it was important to look elsewhere on the property for those opportunities. This area’s best use was 14

The brothers found that simple approaches didn’t work for the woods either. Prior to their ownership, the prevailing harvest method Re-meandered was high-grading, cutting the stream most valuable timber without Straightened concern for future timber channel quality. It was simple, with attractive short-term returns, but Mike and Pete realized that it would not provide income for the long term. To reestablish stands of quality timber, Mike and Pete followed the adage An aerial view of the property reveals both the “cut the worst first,” practicing straightened creek bed left by the previous what foresters call TSI (timber landowner and the re-meandered stream. stand improvement). It is a way to balance getting value from timber today while ensuring good quality for the next harvest. Mike and Pete realize profit from their timber, but they also expect their management to provide profit for future generations. Courtesy of Mike Greenheck

Greenheck Family Story

to clean and contain the waters off of our land and provide valuable wildlife habitat.”

They also have observed how invasive plants like buckthorn and honeysuckle attempt to simplify the woods by outcompeting others. What had been a carpet of wildflowers and tree seedlings often turns into bare dirt underneath buckthorn and honeysuckle. Pete and Mike have worked hard to remove these species in order to sustain a diverse woods capable of supporting timber and wildlife. The steep, south-facing bluffs on their property have also gotten a little more complex. Prior to the last hundred years, these slopes burned regularly. Fire has the ability to burn off vegetation and support the establishment and growth of oaks. Today, Mike and Pete use prescribed burning to mimic the natural disturbance that encouraged plant diversity. For the brothers, working together to reclaim some of the land’s complexity has provided a sense of success and fulfillment. They know they “did something that worked for both them and their land,” and discovered the real wisdom of their father’s words. 15

whole system. Natural community names are widely used by consultants, foresters, and conservationists. Often, natural communities are separated along a gradient of soil moisture (or historical occurrence of fire); in fact, soil moisture is usually reflected in the name (e.g., dry-mesic woods).

Soil moisture categories: What

Dry – very little soil moisture because they have either very sandy or rich but shallow soils and are very well-drained.

Types of Woods

Dry-mesic – retain more moisture, well-drained.

Do I Have?

Mesic – moderately moist soils.

Southeastern Minnesota’s strikingly picturesque landscape with high ridges and low valleys has many different types of woods. An exposed ridge, dried by sun and wind and subject to fire, supports a much different woods than a cool and damp valley. Understanding what type of woods you currently have or could potentially have can help you see your land for what it is, and what it is capable of being. For example, a thin soil layer over bedrock on a south-facing slope grows less marketable trees than a site with deep soil on a north-facing slope. These two sites support different tree, plant, and animal species—the value of a physically diverse landscape.

Wet – wet soils, very poorly-drained soils, periodically with standing water.

In the previous section, we referred to your woods or land as a whole system, or ecosystem. An ecosystem is made up of all of the living (trees, flowers, wildlife, etc.) and non-living parts (bedrock, water, soil) of the system. In this section, we will describe common types of woods, or natural communities. Natural communities are simply all the living parts in the

Additional resources:

In this section, we will introduce you to five natural communities that you might find on your land, ranging from driest to wettest: bluff prairie and oak savanna, oak-hickory woodland, dry-mesic woods, mesic woods, and floodplain forest.

Ed Pembleton

Wet-mesic – very moist soils, more poorly-drained.

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

Learn more about the Minnesota DNR’s ecological classification system and native plant communities: MDNR offers many publications, including a primer on Minnesota’s forests and trees, which you can download at: forestry/education/primer

Large-flowered bellwort


Eastern bluebird

Wikimedia Commons

Ed Pembleton

Wikimedia Commons

Several websites can help you identify birds, including: WhatBird, www., and All About Birds,

Shagbark hickory

An tree identification key for beginners is available at: www.extension. Wildflower identification at: Profiles for all of Minnesota’s rare species: 17

Bluff Prairie–Oak Savanna What is it?

Red-headed woodpecker

What maintains it? In the past, fires eliminated or reduced the number and species of trees in these plant communities. Bur oaks, having corky bark, are most likely to survive fire. Also, large mammals such as elk browsed on shrubs and young treess. Today, prescribed fire and brush removal can help to maintain openness.

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

Where is it found?

Savanna tree

Historically, these plant communities were extremely widespread in southeastern Minnesota, covering millions of acres. They were found on a range of soil moisture types (from dry to wetmesic). On moister soils, they have been converted to other land uses (likely agriculture) or have grown into more closed-canopy woods in the absence of fire. Today, most remnant prairies and savannas are on dry bluffs.

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

How can I recognize it?

Purple prairie clover


These plant communities are very uncommon. A good place to look is on top of bluffs or on the south or west slopes. You may see a treeless patch with grasses and wildflowers or an area encroached and covered by eastern red cedars. For savannas, look for old oak trees (bur and white oak) that have large, horizontally outstretched branches. If you find one, the neighboring trees are almost certainly much younger. This competition from other trees can result in the savanna tree’s lower branches dying from lack of sunlight.

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation Jeannine Richards

Wikimedia Commons

Grasses and wildflowers dominate bluff prairies and oak savannas. While prairies have few, if any, trees, savannas have scattered oak trees that are “open-grown” (broad spreading branches) that can create partial shade benefiting unique wildflowers.

What more common plants can I find in bluff prairies and savannas?

Little bluestem

Little bluestem, gray goldenrod, purple prairie clover, rough blazing-star, sky-blue aster and bird’s foot coreopsis are all common to bluff prairies and oak savannas.

What unique animals can I find in savannas? Savannas provide a unique habitat for some animals. Brown thrasher, redheaded woodpecker, field sparrow, Blanding’s turtle, common five-lined skink, North American racerunner, plains hognose snake, plains pocket mouse, and prairie vole all make their homes in bluff prairies and savannas. Bur Oak Bur oaks leaves have a pair of deep indentations that makes them distinctive. Compare with white oak (p. 20).


Oak woodland can have canopy coverage between 50 and nearly 100 percent. Dominant trees included bur oak, white oak, shagbark hickory, black cherry, elm, and black walnut. Since the trees in oak woodlands have grown up closer to each other, they do not have the open-grown form of broad, widespread branches found in savannas. Although the trees are closer together, quite a bit of sunlight still reaches the wildflowers because of a lack of shrubs.

What maintains it? Oak woodlands were subjected to frequent wildfires of low intensity. These fires prevented growth of shrubs that are found in most oak woods today. In the absence of fire, shrubs and tree saplings grew quickly, causing this community to become hidden.

Where is it found? This plant community historically was scattered throughout southeastern Minnesota on soils that ranged from dry to mesic. Today, this plant community likely can be identified only by its ground layer vegetation. Like bur oak (p. 19), white oak leaves have rounded tips (compare with red oak, p. 23). Shagbark hickory is most easily distinguished by its gray, shaggy bark, but it also has compound leaves with five leaflets on each stem.

Shagbark Hickory

Today, oak woodlands are most likely to occur in areas adjacent to where prairie and savanna remnants have been found.

What more common plants can I find in oak-hickory woodlands? The herb layer is potentially diverse, including some members of the prairie and oak savanna communities, but also featuring grasses and flowers that are best adapted to partial shade. Plants might include Clayton’s sweet cicely, pointed-leaved tick trefoil, woodland sunflower, white snakeroot, heart-leaved Alexander, bottlebrush grass, and Pennsylvania sedge.

Wikimedia Commons

What is it?

How can I recognize it?

Bottlebrush grass

What unique animals can I find in oak woodlands? Birds include whip-poor-will, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, Eastern towhee, and red-headed woodpecker. Other animals include eastern pipistrelle (bat), milk snake, black rat snake, timber rattlesnake, and wood turtle.

Wikimedia Commons

Oak-Hickory Woodland

Wood Turtle Shagbark hickory in an oak-hickory woodland.

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

White Oak 20


Dry-Mesic Woods

Wild geranium

In dry-mesic woods (sometimes referred to as central hardwoods), the tree canopy is nearly complete, though disturbances (e.g., fire, blowdowns, harvests) create gaps in the canopy. As the name suggests, dominant trees can come either from drier woods (e.g., white oak, shagbark hickory) or from more mesic woods (e.g., red oak, sugar maple, elm, hackberry, and black cherry).

What maintains it?

Wikimedia Commons

Moderate soil moisture and infrequent disturbance allows many species to thrive in this community type. Selective harvesting of oaks, with little or no attention to their regeneration, has created a shift in this community toward fewer oaks and more maple, elm, hackberry, and black cherry.

Wood frog

Where is it found? Dry-mesic woods occur on steeper slopes with wind-deposited soils that are rich, but relatively thin.

Wikimedia Commons

How can I recognize it?



Dry-mesic woods are very common. Oakhickory-dominated dry-mesic woods are typically found on the south-facing hillsides on the middle to upper slope. Oak-cherrydominated dry-mesic woods are typically found on the north-facing hillsides on the middle to upper slope. Oak-elm-dominated dry-mesic woods are found equally distributed between south- and north-facing hillsides on the middle to lower slope.

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

What more common plants can I find in dry-mesic woods? The wildflowers are diverse and include jack-in-the-pulpit, enchanter’s nightshade, large flowered bellwort, lady fern, tick trefoils, lopseed, wild geraniun, and hog peanut.

What unique animals can I find in dry-mesic woods?

John Cassady

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

What is it?


Red Oak

Unusual animals found in drymesic woods may include Acadian flycatcher, cerulean warbler, scarlet tanager, whippoor-will, wood thrush, worm-eating warbler, black rat snake, timber rattlesnake, and wood frog. Red oak is a dominant tree in drymesic woods. It is distinguished by pointed leaf tips and shallow indentations. Compare with white oak, p. 20.


Mesic Woods What is it? Sometimes referred to as northern hardwoods, the dominant trees are basswood, red oak, and sugar (hard) maple. Many other trees are found in these forests, including black walnut, butternut, ironwood, elm, and bitternut hickory.

What maintains it?

Where is it found?

Ed Pembleton

These forest types are found on very fertile ground, mostly on middle and upper slopes of northand northeast-facing hillsides.

Trillium (white) and large-flowered bellwort (yellow) on mesic slope.

How can I recognize it?

Dutchman’s breeches

Ed Pembleton

Sugar maple leaves have smooth edges; compare with silver maple, p. 27. Basswood leaves are heart-shaped with toothed edges.

Wikimedia Commons

This upland wooded community occurs on rich, well-drained soils. These woods were the product of succession, the gradual replacement of one group of species by another. Once a certain number of basswood and maple trees, whose leaves do not burn easily, are established, fire can no longer influence the system to favor oak regeneration.

Cerulean warbler

Sugar Maple Basswood

The presence of sugar maple and basswood trees.

What common plants can I find in mesic woods?

Wildflowers include Virginia waterleaf, bloodroot, yellow violet, blue cohosh, early meadow-rue, wood anemone, maidenhair fern, and dutchman’s breeches.

What unique animals can I find in mesic woods? Acadian flycatcher, hooded warbler, Louisiana water thrush, wood turtle, and timber rattlesnake all can be found in mesic woods. 24


Floodplain Forest What is it? This type of woods occurs in the floodplains of rivers. Tree species vary but may include American elm, box elder, basswood, black ash, hackberry, silver maple, and cottonwood. These forests are heavily used by migrating warblers, so they are valuable for maintaining songbird populations.

What maintains it? Species of this community are adapted to spring floods and wet soils.

Where is it found?

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

flycatcher, veery, red-shouldered hawk, pickerel frog, northern cricket frog, and woodland vole are distinctive animals of floodplain forest.

Wikimedia Commons

Jeannine Richards, Aldo Leopold Foundation

The sprawling floodplains found along the largest rivers sometimes consist of several terraces capable of supporting woods. These are subject to floods of differing frequencies and water levels, and support a mosaic of species depending upon local Floodplain forest along the Mississippi River. elevation differences. The lower terraces experience the most frequent, severe, and long-lasting floods, while the uppermost terraces flood infrequently.

Red-shouldered hawk

Silver Maple

How can I recognize it? This type of woods is located in the floodplains of large rivers. There is a great variety of wildflowers and grasses growing in a floodplain woods because slight variations in elevation lead to big differences in plant habitat. Common plants include wood nettle, stinging nettle, green-headed coneflower, and many species of sedges and native grasses, such as bland sedge, Virginia wild rye, and white grass.

What unique animals can I find in floodplain forests? Cerulean warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, hooded warbler, Acadian 26

J.D. Wilson, DiscoverLife

What common plants can I find in floodplain forests?

Northern cricket frog Silver maple leaves are toothed and the undersides of the leaves are silvery. Compare with sugar maple, p. 25.


Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

How are my woods changing?

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

A plant you have never noticed before is quickly spreading along a familiar trail; a centuries-old open-grown oak has young trees growing up between its broad spreading branches; the mature trees in your woods are of different species than the saplings in your woods. All of these may be clues to how your woods are changing. That quickly spreading new plant is probably an invasive species. The old oak used to be surrounded by grassland when spring fires kept competing trees suppressed. The current mature trees now create conditions that benefit the growth of other species of seedlings and saplings. Being able to notice and anticipate change can help you make wise decisions about the future of your woods. As a landowner, each decision you make can help to promote change where it is beneficial and avoid it where it is a problem. Remember, some of the parts of your woods are more influential than others. Managing these most influential parts can help you manage change. 28

Fire – Fire was once a major force on the southeastern Minnesota landscape. The wildliferich oak woods we have today owe their establishment in part to periodic fires. In the absence of fire, trees that are not fire-resistant have been able to flourish, changing the woods. Most dramatically, woods that used to be open are now dense with trees, mostly non-oak species such as maple and basswood. Wildlife – Whether for deer, turkey, or songbirds, many people purchase land to enjoy wildlife. Wildlife can both create and indicate change in your woods. Some animals can have an undesirable impact on your woods if they become too abundant. More unique wildlife, although not creating change, can indicate it. Because degraded areas harbor few unique species, the presence of unique wildlife species can indicate that your land is healthy. Climate – Earth’s climate is changing. The speed, amount, and impact of change are challenging to predict but might affect the future of your woods. Because climate is one part of a connected system, a change in climate will probably have consequences on many other parts and the whole system.

Alanna Koshollek, ALF Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

in my woods

Wikimedia Commons

Managing Change

Invasive Species – Invasive plants and animals are capable of multiplying rapidly and taking over your woods, negatively impacting your native plants and animals. Invasives are usually from another part of the world and have no natural enemies to keep their spread under control here.

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Managing Timber – Harvesting trees causes change you can easily see in your woods. With planning, harvesting can create change that is predictable and beneficial. But without some forethought, a harvest may cause changes that you did not anticipate and that may be undesirable. Your management of the trees or seedlings that are left after a harvest builds the basis for future harvests.


For Today and Tomorrow Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

More and more landowners are buying land for recreation, privacy, and enjoyment of wildlife, not for harvesting timber. Yet, as you get to know your woods and make plans for its future, a tree harvest may become part of your plan. The trees you decide to harvest today will have a tremendous influence on your woods tomorrow and on future harvests. It is possible that years, decades, or maybe a century may separate the harvests of today and tomorrow. No matter how much time separates them, the two harvests are connected. How big is an acre? Harvesting quality trees today and tomorrow An acre is a common requires regenerating quality trees during measure of land area. As today’s harvest. a square, an acre would Let’s begin with where we want to end up measure 208 feet on each after a harvest—regenerating quality trees for side. It is roughly 75 tomorrow. Then we will look at some of the percent of a football field harvest and regeneration methods that could be (including the end zones). potentially used on your land to promote oak.

Regenerating tomorrow’s trees There are several regeneration methods, each connected with specific types of woods and carried out to achieve desired establishment of new trees. Natural regeneration includes planning on root suckering, stump 30

Trees have different light requirements. You may have noticed aspen trees on the edges of fields—it is because they need lots of light to start growing. There are many species that are just the opposite, preferring dense shade. Sugar maple and basswood seedlings grow best under a canopy of mature trees. There are also trees that fall in the middle between the two extremes. All the oaks, hickories, ashes, and elms can tolerate some shade, but still need quite a bit of light to get established. They do not do well when they are in dense woods. In the case of oaks, the seedlings are more tolerant of shade than saplings and maturing trees. Selecting a harvest method that allows more light to reach the ground can help new oak trees be successful.

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Red oak resprouting from a cut stump.

A planted red oak seedling for artificial regeneration.

Harvest and regeneration methods that benefit oak If light is needed for seedlings and saplings of shade mid-tolerant tree species (oaks and hickories), then it is only predictably achieved through harvest methods that more uniformly increase light on the ground layer: small-scale clearcut, seed-tree harvest, and shelterwood harvest. Before your mind races to the extreme, clearcut does not have to mean “all cut.” A smallscale clearcut of perhaps two to three acres in

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Harvesting My Trees

Regenerating trees have needs

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

sprouting, or natural seeding to start new trees after a harvest. If you are sure you will not get natural regeneration of the type or quantity you need, you may need to consider artificial regeneration, which is either sowing seeds or planting seedlings. Whichever regeneration method you choose, you should address any invasive species problem before you start because they will compete agressively with your young seedlings.

A red oak seedling sprouting from seed.


Next time you take a walk in your woods, pick up a few of the most common leaves you find and try to identify them. Compare the species of the largest trees in your woods with the seedlings and saplings. Use this tree identification key for beginners to help you: www.extension.

John Gritt

I haven’t done anything, so how can my woods be changing? It is because the conditions in your woods have gotten “darker.” The largest trees in your woods may not have established under the same sunlight availability as the seedlings in your woods right now. In other words, if you have big oak trees, it is likely that you don’t see many oak seedlings and saplings, unless there is plenty The woods getting “darker”—red maples coming in of light hitting the underneath mature oaks. ground. If it is shady, you are almost certain to have shade-tolerant species establishing as seedlings and saplings. So, in the case of “no action,” mature oaks will eventually be replaced by maple and basswood trees.

Jeff Martin

Woodland wisdom: No action is still action

Woods after a shelterwood harvest.

Seed-tree harvest A seed-tree harvest is similar to a clearcut except that some of the seed-producing trees are left standing in the cut area. Typically, three to ten seed-producing trees are left per acre, and their seed will produce the next generation of trees. In the case of oaks, the seed-producing trees that are left will not cast enough shade to inhibit new oaks from growing. Shelterwood harvest

your woods could allow enough light for oak seedlings and saplings to grow successfully. Other methods that might seem less dramatic may also be able to accomplish your goals. Small-scale clearcut A small-scale clearcut will remove most or all of the woody vegetation greater than 2 inches in diameter in a given area. Trees are then regenerated from stump sprouts, direct seeding, or replanting. Stump sprouts are new growth that comes from the stump of a cut tree. Older trees are less dependable for producing stump sprouts than younger trees—relying on this method will work better with 75-year-old trees than with 125-year-old trees. 32

In the 1950s, the woods on our family farm didn’t get a lot of our care. The woods was for grazing and the trees were just “big weeds” used for firewood and fence posts. Today, we see it much differently. A little effort has created profitable timber quality, a diversity of wildlife, and personal enjoyment we never knew possible. LaVerne and Denise Paulson, Fillmore

Let’s imagine that you have big County landowners oak trees with smaller maple and basswood growing underneath. If you remove the big oaks, maple and basswood will become the next big trees and the oak component will be lost. If you want to harvest some of the big oaks, but encourage new oaks to come in, a shelterwood harvest may help you. The shelterwood method involves the selective removal of some big trees and most or all of the smaller maple and basswood, making room for regeneration. Selective harvest of some big trees creates enough openings in the canopy to allow some light to reach the ground for establishment of oak seedlings.


Selective harvest may be employed a second time to capture remaining value of oak that was left standing, or the trees could be left to enhance the beauty and “uneven age” look of the woods. However, since oak seedlings will tolerate more shade than oak saplings, a selective removal of most of the big oaks may be necessary 10 to 15 years after harvest for the next generation of oaks to grow to maturity.

it is filtered and cleaned by this vegetation before entering the waterway. This prevents loose soil from entering the stream, thereby improving water quality. Healthy streams and ponds on your property attract many kinds of wildlife. The Best Management Practice guidelines, available from Minnesota Forest Resource Council, can help you manage the wetter areas on your property.

What about the wetter areas in my woods?

Should I be doing anything between the harvests today and tomorrow?

The wetter areas in your woods, such as depressions and stream banks (sometimes called riparian zones), are important for a number of reasons. You can improve the quality of the water on your property if you allow these areas to remain covered with trees and wildflowers. As rain travels over land

Woodland wisdom: What is a good site for oak trees? Many landowners learn the hard way about where oaks will do well on their property. The best sites for establishing or maintaining oaks are on south- or west-facing slopes or ridge tops. The soils in these areas are likely to be well-drained and sandier. On heavier soils, oak establishment benefits from efforts to reduce competition from other tree species, such as maple and basswood. Sometimes existing factors on the land make oaks easier to establish or maintain. For example, if cattle are removed from old pastures that have large oaks, developing oak seedlings can get a head start on competition (but watch for brush in these pastures that cattle did not eat that will compete strongly with developing seedlings). Another factor to consider is if you have 80- to 90-year-old red oaks, they will resprout vigorously when cut, creating the next woods, whereas oaks over 120 years are less likely to resprout and do not serve as a dependable source of regeneration.

We don’t feel we need to “clean up the woods.” Dead standing or fallen trees provide great habitat and cover for lots of wildlife.

Taking care of trees between harvests to favor health, vigor, and composition is called tending. It is Ken Nichols, Olmstead County not always necessary and can sound landowner like a lot of work, but tending is an investment in the woods for a payoff later. Tending can include pruning, releasing selected trees (removing competition around them), invasive species control, and intermediate or improvement thinning harvests that will improve stand composition, structure, growth, quality and health, while providing economic income. There are often cost-share programs to help you with these activities.

Talking to your forester and your logger Plan to have a lengthy discussion with your forester and your logger before the harvest about the future of your woods aimed at answering two questions: “What will my woods look like?” and “How is it going to get there?” If these questions are not addressed, are dismissed as unimportant, or the answer is that it will “work itself out,” it should be a red flag that the forester or logger is not including critical thinking and forethought as part of the plan. You will do better to work with someone else.

North- and east-facing slopes or lower slopes where the soils are richer are typically poor sites to establish or maintain oaks. There will likely be too much competition from maples, basswood, and other species. Don’t force it, if the competition from the maples, basswood, and other non-oak species is too much to overcome, go with the flow. These richer sites are very capable of producing quality hardwoods, but you may have to settle for something other than oak.


Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.


There are also other harvesting methods that may be red flags. Harvests that take all of the trees of value out of your woods today do not consider the future of the forest. Diameter limit cutting (selective harvest) – cutting all trees over a certain diameter without regard for impact on stand structure, tree quality, species composition, or tree regeneration leaves you with a completely unpredictable harvest tomorrow.

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

Economic Clearcutting – cutting every tree of economic value without regard for the site or tree regeneration leaving you with little to harvest tomorrow.

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Woodland wisdom: “Say, if you don’t mind me asking, who is your doctor?”

The same question could be asked of a trusted friend or acquaintance about their forester or logger. And don’t hesitate to ask your forester or logger to see a list of references from recent jobs. If they are not proud of their work, it can be a red flag. There are lots of good foresters and loggers; take a little time to find one of them.


High-Grading (selective logging) – cutting only the largest, most valuable trees in a stand and leaving low-value and poor-quality trees. This is not the same as single-tree selection, which evaluates the removal of each tree selected on its economic value versus the value of taking an adjacent tree or its value to the woods. Single-tree selection is a thorough process of weighing many factors, while high-grading looks only at the monetary value of the tree and nothing else.

Additional resources: University of Minnesota–Extension provides a list of consulting foresters around the state: ConsultingForestersList.html For a list of Minnesota Certified Master Loggers, visit: mmlccertloggers.htm My Minnesota Woods has lots of information about all aspects of managing your woods: The Minnesota Forest Resources Council has resources on Best Management Practices for forest management: management.html 37

in the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest

The commanding presence of bluffs and rock outcroppings in southeast Minnesota contradicts the fragility of the landscape. Ten thousand years ago, westerly winds brought the fertile soils that support our fields and forests. Beneath the soil are limestone and sandstone, two very soft bedrocks. When the soils and bedrock are exposed, they offer little resistance to the forces of moving water, concentrated and sped up by the hilly landscape. The strength of this landscape is not soil or rock, but the plants growing on it. Plant roots hold soil in place just as nails hold shingles on a roof. Plants also slow water speed, increase water absorption when rain falls, and reduce flooding and erosion. Without roots, the system unravels: rain falls and gathers speed, creating flash floods that carry away valuable topsoil, leaving gullies and exposing bedrock. Cracks and openings in the soft bedrock connect polluted surface waters to the groundwater. Plants are a lynch pin not only in natural systems, but also in our economic system. Agriculture and forestry are critically important to the economics of the region. Settlers of the region, without our current knowledge, Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

In 1961, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) established the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest, which includes Whitewater Wildlife Management Area and Snake Creek and Reno State Forests, as well as other state holdings, to demonstrate this balance. Through purchase of lands from willing sellers, the DNR became a landowner and a neighbor to private landowners throughout Southeast Minnesota. They began reestablishing a healthy relationship between people and land. The DNR and the Natural Resources Conservation Service worked with private citizens to plant forests, improve tree-harvesting methods, repair eroded streams, plant permanent vegetation, implement appropriate cropping systems, and build water control structures. All of these projects were based in the recognition that as the slope increases, so does the importance of permanent vegetation cover. Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

Public and Private Partnership

harvested trees and converted land to agricultural fields and pastures, often with catastrophic loss of soil, fertility, and personal property. Today, a more thorough planning process in combination with thoughtful land stewardship by private landowners is better recognizing the critical role of plants in both natural and economic systems.

The forest management on the DNR’s land has improved practices in the region for nearly fifty years. Terry Helbig, a DNR Forester who has been around almost since the beginning, says, “We welcome new ideas because we have a place to test them. Many innovations in forestry practices owe their start to the Dorer Forest. New and successful methods get passed on to private landowners through our public and private foresters.” Over the years, practices like stand establishment by direct seeding and improved timber harvest methods have benefited the region’s oak forests. An appreciation of its history only adds to the uniqueness of this landscape. Today, hillsides covered with forests, prairies, and productive agricultural fields and pastures, supporting an abundance of wildlife, remind us how resilient even a fragile landscape can be if we successfully balance natural and economic systems. 38


may be other invasive species in your woods besides these. Use the websites below to help you learn to identify and control any you might find.

Additional resources: The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources maintains a website on invasive plants and animals, listing potential invaders with pictures and factsheets that will help you make a positive identification and learn how to control their spread at Minnesota Invasive Species Advisory Council (MISAC) specifically addresses invasive plants found in Minnesota:

Invasive Species in my woods

The Midwest Invasive Plant Network can connect you with many regional resources for identifying and controlling invasive plants: Information, pictures, and control measures for invasive plants, animals, and pathogens: Forest health information on tree pests and diseases and control methods:

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Typically, invasive species are plants and animals that are not native here and spread rapidly because there are no diseases or predators to keep their populations in check. In other words, they are not playing by the rules. Their sky-rocketing populations can significantly change your land. Invasive species can also be native, but their populations have become overabundant because of past or current land use. Ironwood, prickly ash, and whitetail deer are examples of native plants and animals that may be locally abundant to the point of interfering with other parts of your woods.

How do I know if I have invasive species in my woods? There are numerous invasive species that might be in your woods. Also, there are likely to be new ones arriving in years to come. Here, we profile the different types of invasives—plant, animal, and disease—that have a widespread impact, or potential impact, on our woods. We profile a non-woody plant (garlic mustard), a small tree (buckthorn), a shrub (honeysuckle), a disease (oak wilt), and an insect (emerald ash borer). There 40

Field exercise: An ounce of prevention Monitor the health of your land. In early spring or late fall, walk your property (on and off trails) to look for invasive plants. Many invasive plants green up early in spring or hold their leaves late into fall. These can be great times to look for invasive plants on your property—they usually stand out. Invasives, such as garlic mustard, are usually brought into new areas by people or wildlife, so make sure to check thoroughly along walking paths and animal trails for invasive plants. If you find one of the plant species listed in this chapter or that you know is invasive, pick a small area to start with and follow the recommended control method. If it seems to be working, you can expand a little more each season until the population and seed bank is exhausted. Craig Maier, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Invasive species are unwanted plants or animals on your land. They can easily invade your woods and displace, kill, or out-compete native species. Over time, they significantly reduce the quality and integrity of your woods. For example, if tree seedlings are unable to compete with invaders, what will that mean for the future of your woods?



Invasive Plant Profile: Garlic Mustard

Where does it grow? Garlic mustard prefers slight to heavy shade. It will grow on almost any soil type, but spreads most quickly in moist, rich soils.

Why is it a problem? Garlic mustard grows well in cool temperatures, so it is actively growing before many native plants. It forms dense stands, out-competing wildflowers and even tree seedlings—it can out-compete almost any native plant in your woods. And the seeds survive in the soil for up to seven years, so multiple years of control are needed to exhaust the seeds in the soil.

The seeds are small and easily attach to any wet or muddy surface, such as boots, hooves (deer or horse), animal fur, mower decks, logging equipment, tires, etc. Populations usually start along a trail, roadside, deer path, or logging road.

How do I recognize it?

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Garlic mustard is a non-woody plant that grows approximately 2 to 4 feet tall. It is a biennial (lives for two years). In the first year, it develops a dense cluster of leaves on the ground called a basal rosette. In the second year, a flowering stalk grows out of the basal rosette. The flowers are very small (1/4-inch in diameter) with four white petals. By May Seed pods hold hundreds of tiny seeds that are easily transported by people and animals. or June, the petals have fallen off and the seed pods, which usually mature by July, are developing and getting longer. After seed production, the plant has completed its life cycle and dies. The dead stems remain standing for the rest of the year, shedding seeds. All green parts of the plant have a distinctive garlic odor when crushed.

How do I control it?

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

How does it spread?

Hand-pulling – Small garlic mustard infestations can be controlled with hand-pulling. Be a large patch of second-year garlic sure to pull out the entire root Treating mustard with herbicide. because roots left in the ground can resprout and produce seeds. Plants with mature seed pods should be bagged and removed from the woods. Herbicide – Large infestations are best controlled by spraying with the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient under many trade names) mixed with water to make a solution of 1.5 to 2 percent active ingredient. Apply herbicide in early spring or late fall when native plants are not actively growing and will not be harmed.

Below, second-year garlic mustard plants in flower.


David Cappaert, Michigan State University,

Woodland wisdom: Your shoes better be clean! Growing up, you may have heard your mother or father yell this to you as you ran into the house for dinner. Now, you need to yell it to friends, hunters, loggers, and hikers before they enter your woods. And if you have invasive plants in your woods, clean your boots off when you leave, too. Boots, tires, and hooves are all capable of carrying invasive plant seeds from one place to another, planting them in your woods and elsewhere.



Invasive Tree Profile: Buckthorn Why is it a problem?

Buckthorn has been sold for years as a hedge; it has dense branches and grows new leaves early in spring and holds onto them late into the fall. In the woods, Buckthorn has spread buckthorn thickets can prevent light from quickly across our reaching wildflowers and tree seedlings for the property. Because of entire growing season. Without light, these it, we lost most of our native plants and trees eventually die.

plum thickets and their wildlife benefit.

How do I recognize it?

Buckthorn is a small tree reaching 10 to 25 feet in height with deep green, oval-shaped leaves approximately 2 inches long. The outer bark is very dark and, when cut, the inner bark is yellowish-orange. Buckthorn branches end in a small thorn. Buckthorn has separate male and female plants, and only the female plants produce seed.

Kent Holen, Houston County landowner

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

It is very easy to overlook or cover up stumps when using the cut-and-herbicide method. The most efficient way to treat a large patch is to work in concentric circles (like circles on a target) around the patch. Begin by cutting one circle around the patch, tipping all of the shrubs to the outside. After one circle is cut, treat the stumps before they are covered by the next circle cut. This is your best guarantee that you will cut and treat every individual and always have room to tip them out of your way. 44

Where does it grow? Buckthorn is a serious invader of wooded areas. It also commonly invades hedgerows, gradually spreading outward into the fields.

How does it spread? Many bird species eat the buckthorn fruits and deposit the seeds throughout the woods and beyond.

How do I control it? Herbicides

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

Woodland wisdom: A method to the madness

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Buckthorn branch— note the small thorn at the tip.

One of the most effective means of control is triclopyr (ester version) at 8 to 12 percent active ingredient. The herbicide works best when applied in one of two methods: basal bark or cut-and-herbicide. The basal bark method directly applies a 6-inch band of herbicide around the entire trunk. The oil-based herbicide is able to penetrate through the bark. The cut-and-herbicide method requires first cutting the tree down, then applying herbicide to the stump. Cut-andherbicide can be a more efficient use of chemical, produce immediate visual results, and minimize over-spray. 45




Invasive Tree Disease Profile: Oak Wilt

Why is it a problem?

Why is it a problem?

Honeysuckle develops new leaves early in spring and holds onto them late into the fall. This shrub can prevent light from reaching wildflowers and tree seedlings for the entire growing season. Without light, the native flowers and trees eventually die.

Oak wilt is capable of spreading quickly through oak woods and killing any oak species of any age— including the several-hundred-year-old oak you cherish. Oak wilt breakouts in high-quality timber stands may require immediate harvest to capture value before it is lost or the breakout spreads.

How do I recognize it?

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Honeysuckle shrubs range from 3 to 15 feet tall. They typically have multiple arched stems, and the older stems are hollow with shaggy bark. Its flowers are tubular in shape and fragrant, producing red berries.

Where does it grow? Honeysuckle prefers partial sunlight, but can be found in full sun or shade.

How does it spread?

Honeysuckle leaves and berries. The berries will turn red as they ripen.

How do I control it? Cut-and-Herbicide Treatment Because of the multi-stemmed and arching growth form, it is difficult to effectively apply herbicide without cutting the shrub down first. All stems must be cut and treated to be successful. Apply to the cut stump 20 percent active ingredient of glyphosate (which is sold under many trade names). 46

Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia,

Many bird species eat the honeysuckle berries and spread the seeds throughout the woods and beyond. Clusters of honeysuckle are often found around the bases of other trees because they have been deposited by birds resting above.

Honeysuckle flowers are white and very fragrant.

How do I recognize it? Oak wilt is caused by a fungus that deprives the tree of water. The fungus is not visible, but the symptoms are obvious: the tree’s leaves wilt and die. As the disease advances—sometimes quickly—the whole tree, or a cluster of trees, will show symptoms and begin to die.

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Invasive Shrub Profile: Honeysuckle


Which trees are susceptible? Oaks in the red oak group (black, red, pin, and others with pointed leaf edges) are most susceptible. These trees drop their leaves rapidly (usually within a three-week period), most often beginning in late June throughout August. Some will lose a portion of their leaves in September then rapidly lose all their leaves just after the leaves emerge the following spring. Oaks in the white oak group (white, swamp white, bur oaks; those with rounded leaf edges) are less susceptible. These trees will drop their leaves on one or more branches several years in a row. Trees in the white oak group will take longer to die and show more chronic symptoms.

How does the disease spread? Oak trees are often connected together underground, called root grafting. The disease can spread easily from tree to tree through roots that are connected. It also can spread by beetles that pick up the fungus on their bodies and transport it to wounds on healthy trees.

How do I prevent it? In your yard, it is best to avoid pruning, cutting, or wounding oak trees from April through July (or, more conservatively, April to October). In spring, stop pruning when daytime temperatures reach 50⁰F. For harvesting timber, restrict the timing of harvests if oaks are present or in nearby stands (including on your neighbor’s land). See for more information. 47

R E D A V N I Invasive Animal Profile: Emerald Ash Borer Why is it a problem?

David Cappaert, Michigan State University,

Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive wood-boring beetle that kills ash trees by feeding on the tissues under the bark that transport water and nutrients for the tree. It will kill all types of native ash trees of any size, age, or state of health. A tree that has been attacked by EAB can die within two to four years. Already, more than 50 million ash trees are dead or dying in the Midwest because of this insect. Statewide, Minnesota’s woods contain some 973 million black, white, and green ash trees that are vulnerable to the pest.

The emerald ash borer beetle is bright, shiny green and about the size of a dime.

How do I recognize it? The metallic-green beetle is native to East Asia and was accidentally imported to the United States. It has only recently been found in Minnesota. The symptoms of EAB are general, so it is important to look for several of the following signs and symptoms to determine if you have it in your woods.

Symptoms Tree Crown dieback: Larval feeding disrupts nutrient and water flow to the upper canopy, thus resulting in leaf loss and crown dieback, beginning at the top of the tree where EAB prefers to attack first. Unusual Branching: Stressed trees will attempt to grow new branches and leaves where they still can (just below where the larvae are feeding), which could be on the main stem of the tree. Bark splits: Callus tissue that develops around larval galleries causes vertical splits in the bark. Woodpecker feeding: Woodpeckers feed on EAB larvae under the bark. Feeding is typically evident higher in the tree where EAB prefers to be.

How do I prevent it? EAB spreads primarily through the transport of infected wood, most likely firewood. Firewood should be harvested in the same area it will be used. If traveling, purchase and use firewood only at your destination. Visit www. for specific information and guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Also visit for information, videos, and more.

Signs Larvae: Larvae are cream-colored, slightly flattened and have pincher-like appendages at the end of their body. Mature larvae reach 1½ inches in length and would be found feeding beneath the bark. S-shaped larval galleries: As larvae feed under the bark they wind back and forth creating galleries that are packed with sawdust and make an S-shape. D-shaped emergence holes: As adults emerge from under the bark they create a D-shaped emergence hole about 1/8 inch across. Adults: Adult beetles are metallic green in color and are 3/8 to 1/2 inches in length and 1/16-inch wide. Adults are flat on the back and rounded on their underside. 48

Above, the S-shaped larval galleries underneath the bark of an ash killed by EAB. Right, ash trees are easy to identify by their compound leaves (many leaflets on one stalk). Do you have ash on your property?


means it will resprout, but top-killing prevents it from competing with shorter wildflowers. Periodic fire may be all that is necessary to keep woody plants from encroaching on and possibly taking over your prairie, savanna, or oak woodland.

A Hot Topic

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Our southeastern Minnesota oak woodlands, savannas, and prairies, and the plants and animals that live in them, were strongly influenced by fire. In order for fire to continue to shape our land today, prescribed fire must take the place of historic wildfires. Prescribed fire is the intentional application of fire under specific conditions to accomplish planned land management objectives including: • Restoring fire-dependent natural communities – Fire is a natural and necessary component of some plant communities such as prairie, oak savanna, and oak woodlands. Periodic fire is beneficial for the regeneration of the trees and wildflowers in these natural communities. • Maintaining or improving wildlife habitat – Fire can improve habitat for wildlife through increasing plant production (both quantity of growth and seed production), availability of browse (forcing top-killed shrubs to resprout), and creating the specific habitats needed by unique wildlife. For example, red-headed woodpeckers nest in cavities of dead trees and forage in open woods (savannas and oak woodlands) that can be maintained by fire. • Controlling competition between species – Fire can reduce the encroachment of undesirable shrubs and trees into restored prairies, savannas, and oak woodlands. Fire may only top-kill the shrub or tree, which 50

How do I conduct a prescribed fire on my property?

Anna Swaim

Prescribed Fire

• Site preparation for seeding or replanting – Fire can be an excellent method for removing built-up thatch on a planting site, clearing it for seeding or mechanical replanting.

Conducting a prescribed fire requires training and experience. Private contractors are available to conduct a burn on your land, and in some areas, networks of trained volunteers have formed to help each other conduct prescribed fires as well. Regardless of who helps you with your burn, it is necessary to secure a permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources before anyone lights a match.

Woodland wisdom: The tail wagging the dog Wouldn’t it be great if fire killed all the invasive species? Fire is capable of top-killing every invasive plant on your property, but it may not kill the parts below the ground. The plant’s roots likely will survive, allowing it to resprout and gather enough energy to produce seed, usually within a couple of years after burning. Repeated fire may be effective in surpressing an invasive plant, but using a general control method (fire) for a specific objective (controlling an invasive species) can put you in an awkward position—now the control needs for invasive plants determine how often you burn, rather than burn frequency responding to your larger goals. Matching a specific control method with a specific invasive species will not only produce better results, it will let you judge how best to use prescribed fire to address the collective needs of the entire natural community and your goals for the property.


Private landowners are able to conduct prescribed fires on their own land after obtaining any necessary permits. However, your right is also your responsibility. If your fire escapes and starts a wildfire, you may be responsible for all suppression costs, and can also be held accountable for any injury or loss of property incurred as a result. It is highly recommended that you work with a professional or someone with prior experience.

How is prescribed fire behavior predictable?

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Fire behaves in predictable ways based on criteria that can be assessed before and during a prescribed fire. Fire behavior is influenced by conditions of the material being burned—the fuel. Is the fuel type light (e.g., grass) or heavy (e.g., dead logs)? How much moisture is the material holding? What quantity of fuel is present? A pile of dead logs, for example, can create an intense fire that will likely damage nearby trees. Temperature, relative humidity, and wind also greatly influence how fire behaves. Fire burns hotter and faster with increases in temperature. Relative humidity (RH) is the amount of moisture in the air relative to the amount of moisture the air can hold. At a low RH, fuels get very dry, making them more easily ignited. Wind direction and speed are critically important in knowing where the fire will go and how fast it will spread. The shape of the land (topography) and the direction a slope faces (aspect) are also key to fire behavior. Fire moves uphill rapidly and downhill slowly. If the hill has a south aspect, fuels are likely to be drier from exposure to the sun and prevailing south and west winds, making them burn hotter and faster. Based on an assessment of all these conditions, fire managers can determine how to conduct the burn, and prescribe the most desirable weather conditions for a given burn unit. Prescribed fires typically have weather prescriptions for moderate temperatures, relative humidities, and wind 52

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

speeds. Burning during extremes in weather either will not accomplish your land management objectives or will be very dangerous. The assessment of the unit is recorded in the burn plan and the manager makes sure all conditions are met on the day of the burn.

How is a prescribed fire controlled? Having a burn plan is critical to insuring that you safely accomplish your goals and objectives. The burn plan contains all of the information the fire manager needs to know about the burn unit: the landowner’s goal and objectives, the locations and types of burn breaks, fuel types, desired weather conditions, crew and equipment requirements, hazards, neighbor and emergency contacts, permits, contingencies, and the plan for conducting the fire. If you are part of state or federal cost-share programs, you will need a burn plan to receive approval and/or credit for the completed practice. A fire manager will invariably begin a prescribed fire at the farthest spot downwind (with a west wind, the fire would be started at the point farthest east). Then, based on his or her knowledge of the topography, fuels, and weather conditions, the manager will use three types of fire to start, control, and complete the prescribed fire: back fire, flank fire, and head fire. Back fire is a line of fire perpendicular to the wind direction, backing into the wind. Because it is forced to move into the wind, backing fires 53

Woodland wisdom: Light and variable is terrible If wind has such a strong effect on fire, wouldn’t it be best to burn under very light or calm winds? No, and here is why. In a prescribed fire, consistent wind speed and direction make the fire predictable for an experienced fire manager. If the winds are calm or light and variable direction, the fire movement is harder to control and becomes dangerous. These conditions risk your safety, personal property, and forest resources. Wind

d Win


burn, head fire is lit only after backing and flanking fire have been used to secure the edges of the burn unit. Then, when the three types of fires meet in the middle of the unit, the fire burns itself out. Burn breaks around the entire burn unit help to contain the fire by creating a break in burnable fuel along all edges. A typical burn break can be a road, river, agricultural field, burned line, a leaf-blown or raked path, or other non-burnable surface. Breaks are installed prior to the burn and should be at least five feet wide.

Additional resources: Fire Weather: DNR Division of Forestry has current fire danger for your area and contact information for getting required burning permits: forestry/fire

Back Fire

Flank Fire

Head Fire

Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) USDA Forest Service has information on the effects of fire on plants and animals: database/feis/ Ed Pembleton

have relatively short flame lengths (distance from the base of the flame to the tip) and slow rates of spread. A fire manager will almost always begin a prescribed burn with a backing fire. Backing fires burn fuels for a longer duration and at higher temperatures at the ground surface than the other two types of fire. Although the flames may not be as large, they are certainly no less effective and in some cases more effective in achieving your objectives. For example, in order to topkill an unwanted shrub, you need to get the entire circumference of the shrub stem up to 145⁰F—not even as hot as boiling water. Top-killing shrubs is accomplished most effectively with a slow backing fire in areas where there are combustible grasses or leaves touching the stems. Flank fire is a line of fire that is parallel to the wind direction. The duration, amount of fuel consumed, and temperature achieved are in between those experienced with backing and head fire. This fire is used by the fire manager to move around a burn unit and into the direction of the wind. Head fire is a line of fire that moves with the wind direction. Because it is being pushed by the wind, head fire spreads quickly and has long flame lengths, making it the most dangerous type of fire. In a basic prescribed 54


Dead trees are great habitat


Depend on My Woods Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

For many landowners, frequent encounters with deer and turkeys and chance encounters with unique wildlife are what they enjoy most about their land. Little or no management is necessary to maintain encounters with more common wildlife like deer and turkey. In fact, you may notice that when these common wildlife species are in greater abundance they can change other parts of your land—for example, planted seedlings in a field are “sitting ducks” for deer browse. But for more unique wildlife with specific Sure old “wolf trees,” grow habitat requirements, your land can more out than up and have become more attractive if managed in no timber value, but they certain ways.

make excellent wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, we lost a bunch in a logging operation, and they aren’t replaced in a person’s lifetime.

What do animals need?

Food, water, shelter, and a place to breed are the basic needs of all wildlife. Each of these needs must be met for an animal to make your property its home. Although these requirements seem basic, they Kent Holen, Houston County landowner vary greatly from one species to another. Some small birds, like the ovenbird, can require large tracts of land in order to successfully breed while others, like ruffed grouse, have very specific food preferences. Understanding what animals are looking for can help you to make management decisions that will encourage them to live on your land. 56

Red-headed woodpeckers nest in cavities of dead branches or snags in savannas or woodlands, and Eastern bluebirds will nest in single, scattered snags in prairies. Tufted titmice and black-capped chickadees use cavities in woods. Barred owls and pileated woodpeckers utilize large dead trees, while chickadees and downy woodpeckers use smaller dead trees and branches.

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Standing dead trees, or snags, are valuable to wildlife as bird perches, nesting cavities, and places to forage for food underneath loose, rotting bark. Many birds and mammals and a few species of reptiles and amphibians use snags as breeding sites. Dead trees left during a harvest provide one habitat while standing and another after they have fallen and begin to decay.

Pileated woodpecker chicks in dead tree

A wide variety of fallen trees and limbs cavity provide cover, food, and growing sites for a diversity of organisms. Small mammals depend on these decaying trees for finding insects to eat and for shelter. Amphibians, such as wood frogs, four-toed salamanders, and red-backed salamanders, use the cool, moist spots under logs as shelter and forage areas. Hooded warblers and Kentucky warblers take advantage of the insects that live in the wood. While you may think you should clean up and remove fallen trees and branches, leaving them behind can be a big help to wildlife.

Favorite foods Many species of trees and shrubs produce nuts or berries, often referred to as mast, which have high levels of fat, protein, and carbohydrates that give resident and migrating wildlife the energy they need for raising young and hibernation or long-distance travel. The mast available from year to year varies, affecting wildlife populations. A bumper crop of mast due to ideal rainfall at critical times, especially as the trees and shrubs are flowering, will often lead to abundant small mammal populations, which in turn benefit the forest carnivores that prey on small mammals. During winter, some sources of mast remain available to forest wildlife on trees and shrubs, under snow, or stored in caches. 57

Oak acorns and hazelnuts – used by white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, woodpeckers, wood ducks, and squirrels.

Woodland wisdom: The canary in the coalmine

Maple and ash seeds – used by small mammals, and evening grosbeaks.

Some species are very sensitive to changes in the environment. Like the canaries miners used to warn of toxic gases, these indicator species can give you an early warning that something is changing, for better or worse, in your woods. When species that need large areas of woods or are sensitive to the quality of vegetation are present, they indicate that your woods are particularly healthy; but if you stop seeing them, it might tell you that something is wrong. Ovenbirds, for example, Presence of some species, like ovenbirds, can tell need large patches of mature you how healthy your woods are. woods with an understory free of invasive shrubs, such as honeysuckle or buckthorn. Ovenbirds and other unique species tell you if your woods are healthy.

Aspen seeds – a favorite food of ruffed grouse. Late summer soft mast (cherry, dogwoods, and elderberry) – important to many birds and mammals as they prepare for migration and winter. Fall and winter soft mast (nannyberry, mountain ash, and winterberry) – most important to cedar waxwings and other winter-active wildlife. Wild Grape – used by numerous bird and mammal species.

Woods edges

Wikimedia Commons

Edges are the places where two dissimilar pieces of land meet—the intersection between field and woods, woods and road, or pond and prairie. Some species, like house wrens, robins, brown-headed cowbirds, and northern cardinals, prefer to live in edges, whereas others need large blocks of land and are negatively affected by edges. Wood thrushes, scarlet tanagers, and many warblers and vireos prefer the woods-interior because they need large patches of woods (hundreds of acres in size) to thrive. When they are forced to occupy smaller patches they encounter all sorts of

edge-related problems—their nests are more likely to be raided by raccoons or to have additional eggs dropped in the nest by brown-headed cowbirds. As a general rule, it’s best not to create additional edges in a large tract of woods where woods-interior species might be making their home. Creating additional edges in smaller tracts is less of a concern since there was less opportunity for woods-interior species.


Courtesy of Karl Malcolm

Learn more about the animals of Minnesota: Many books and publications about wildlife are available from the DNR: www.dnr.state.

Wikimedia Commons

Additional resources:

An eastern phoebe nest with a brown-headed cowbird egg in it.


• more rain and increased flash flooding, especially in winter and spring; • greater risk of short-term droughts; • longer growing seasons could increase agricultural production, but heat stress may decrease crop and livestock productivity, while warmer temperatures increase disease and pests; and • more short-term tree growth, but shifts in forest composition and plant and animal diversity, possibly leading to an overall decline in forest health.

Changing Climate and My Woods

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

Earth’s climate is a source of change for your land. Even changes elsewhere in the world may ultimately have an effect on Minnesota’s climate. Some changes take place slowly and may not be immediately obvious, but all are important because climate is an influential part of the system.

How is the climate changing? Climate change is not new, but the rate of climate change that we are seeing today is. It is expected that by the end of the century temperatures will increase substantially. Such a change would be enough to cause major disruptions to many parts of the system, including changes in bird migrations, growing seasons, and when flowers bloom in the spring. Every plant—including trees and wildflowers—has a regional range where it is capable of growing. Some trees can grow throughout the entire eastern United States, while others are only found in the north. With a warmer climate, northern species would have less and less area in Minnesota where they could live.

How will the climate affect my woods? It is important to realize that predictions are just that—predictions. No one knows for certain what climate change will mean for Minnesota, but scientists forecast that the trends may be toward:

How will our woods adapt to changes in climate? Although increases in carbon and nitrogen in the atmosphere will stimulate more tree growth in the short term, the longer-term outlook is not so good for our forests. Southern tree species will begin to move northward,

Field exercise: Keeping an eye on phenology Phenology is the study of the timing of seasonal events. Blooming of flowers and migrating and breeding of animals can be closely associated with temperature. As the climate warms, some of these events are now occurring earlier than they did in the past. For example, robins—known American Robin as the first sign of spring—used to migrate, but now they are staying all winter in many places. Not all species respond the same way to a warming climate, though, which can cause problems. If, for example, a flower is blooming before a pollinator is available to pollinate it, it may not produce seeds for the next generation. You can keep track of phenology on your land—just write down the dates that things first occur in the spring. Then you can compare your records from year to year and see how your land is changing. You can also contribute your records to help scientists learn more about the changing climate through several national websites: Wikimedia Commons


National Phenology Network: Project BudBurst:

• much hotter summers with severe heat waves and reduced air quality; 60


while the northern woods may almost completely disappear from Minnesota.

Wendy VanDyk Evans,

Climate change will certainly produce winners and losers. Resident birds, such as chickadees and cardinals, may start nesting earlier, putting migratory songbirds at a disadvantage. A major concern is that our woods may not adapt as quickly as the change in climate. It is possible that More frequent and severe flooding may be one effect of climate change tree species may not be able to shift north fast enough (acorns or other heavy seeds are generally not transported long distances by animals), so forests may have a difficult time adapting to changes if some of the more southern trees are not already locally present. Keeping track of changes happening on your land can give you valuable information that you can use in the future to help your woods adapt to a changing climate.

Additional resources: The Union of Concerned Scientists has information on how climate change is likely to affect many aspects of Minnesota including agriculture, forests, wildlife, and recreation: Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG) has created a climate action plan for the state: The American Forest Foundation has a report on family woodlands and climate change:


Do I Need To?

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

In almost every phase of life we have goals, whether we have stated them or not. Planning helps you evaluate your goals and map out how to achieve them. Writing a plan for the future of your woods is not that different than preparing for retirement or scheduling renovations to your house. Having a written plan for your woods can help you think about your long-term goals, make decisions about large financial investments, prioritize the actions you are going to take, and communicate your vision to future generations.

How do I get started? A land management plan records the relationship between you and your land. The plan should follow these three steps: 1. Understand the potential of your land to grow certain types of woods or natural plant communities. Example: A south-facing slope, with a shallow soil layer over bedrock is less productive than a north-facing slope with a deep soil layer having higher soil moisture and more nutrients. The south-facing slope is able to support prairie, savanna, and oak woodland; the more productive north-facing slope has potential to grow high-quality red oak, sugar maple, and other hardwoods.


Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.


Important note: Typically, a professional forester or plan writer will divide a parcel of land into uniform stands of trees or, simply, stands. Each stand should be more or less uniform in its potential. The next two steps can then either be applied generally for your land or for each stand.

We have a number of issues on our property that eventually will be addressed, but we have started by picking our battles. Kent Holen, Houston County landowner

2. Determine your personal expectations, based on the potential of each stand. Do you expect to produce timber, provide habitat for certain wildlife, or sustain prairie and savanna remnants in a given stand?

3. Write the goals and objectives for each stand that will help you achieve your personal expectations based on the potential of your land or woods. Underneath goals and objectives, tasks and timelines can further organize your planning.

How do I work through the steps of a management plan? First, understand the potential of your land. A survey of available or Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.


desired information is usually conducted. This could be looking at the productivity and characteristics of the soils to indicate what types of woods or plant communities could be supported. It could be looking at old aerial photographs to see how your land has changed (see “Reading the history of my land,” p. 8) or, for example, identifying where there may be remnant prairies and savannas. You could also make lists of songbirds, wildflowers and invasive species that you see on your property. Bob Smith’s Land Management Plan

Potential of land : The land has mu ltiple bluffs an valleys. The sout d h- and west-facin g slopes have sh soils, nutrient-p allow oor and dry. The north- and east-f slopes have deep acing er soils, nutrie nt-rich and mois On old aerial ph t. otographs, the so uth and west slop appear to be a mi es x of prairie, sa vanna, and woodla and the north- an nd, d east-facing sl opes appear to be densely wooded. more Wildflower survey s revealed the pr of prairie and sa esence vanna plants on the most exposed of the south and areas west slopes. Seve ral patches of ga mustard were foun rlic d along the nort hwest trail. Goal: Maintain th e land as a have n for native plan animals. ts and Objective 1: Prom ote savanna on so uth and west slop using prescribed e burning. Tasks: Determine burn unit, create breaks, talk to about permitting DNR , and hire burn crew to conduct burn Objective 2: Main tain and regenera te oak woods as important shelte r, breeding, and food habitat for wildlife where ap propriate. Tasks: Plant oak seedlings outsid e of burn unit wh oaks are not curr ere ently establishe d, protect seedli with tree tubes, ng retain or create three dead standi trees per acre an ng d more than 10 de ad fallen trees acre. per Objective 3: Cont rol invasive spec ies that undermin goal of supporti e my ng native plants and animals. Tasks: control ga rlic mustard curr ently present, monitor entire pr operty once a ye ar for other garl mustard and new ic invasive species.


an nd Management Pl La s’ ne Jo y le ir Sh

Your second step will be to define your expectations for your land based on what you have learned. Think about how you would like your land to look in the future—five, 25, or even 50 years from now. The more you learn and understand about your land before you begin this step, the more realistic your expectations are likely to be—and you might see new opportunities that you wouldn’t have thought of before. Consider the costs in time or money for your expectations and sources of cost-share that could support your work. Now it’s time to write. Make a list of the goals and objectives that reflect your expectations and the potential of your woods. Your goal statements should broadly summarize your vision for your land. They can apply to either your woods as a whole or to one stand of trees. Goals serve as a guide to where you want to end up. Underneath each goal, you can list objectives. These will be more specific actions that you need to take to reach 66

Field exercise: Making maps of your property The Web Soil Survey provides a web-based mapmaking tool for private landowners to better understand their land. This mapmaking interface allows you to see the soil types on your land, and provides interpretations to show the potential for various land management activities on these soil types. WSS can be accessed at: and is operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). If you are new to map-making software, you might appreciate a guide for making your map in WSS. There is one available at through the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

your goals. There may be one, two, or many objectives under a single goal. You may want to add specific tasks and timelines to each objective to make sure your highest priorities are addressed first, and so that you don’t get overwhelmed with trying to do everything at once.

Who can help me? Private contracting resource professionals, professional foresters, Minnesota DNR foresters, and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employees all may be able either to write your plan or offer you advice as you put it together yourself. Additionally, there are costshare programs that can help you develop a plan with a forester at low cost to you.

Additional resources: To get started, you can find a management plan template at: WoodlandSchool/resources

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

lped to divide nd: A forester he la e th of l ia nt Pote s nutrient-rich ands. Stand #1 ha the woods into st and maple. The nated by red oak soils and is domi are beginning to es but the mapl r, de ol at e ar ks oa red ace. It will be with them for sp r fo le ab it su compete strongly are fore the red oak oak d re y it al least 15 years be qu in ssible to mainta harvest. It is po effort to remove it will require t bu , te si is th on more oak. s and establish competing specie valuable red oak d #1 to produce Goal: Manage stan timber. est that removes uct pulpwood harv nd Co 1: e iv ct je Ob d oak woods. from maturing re competing maple gger, create forester, find lo Tasks: Meet with sprouting with re , control maple te si g in nd la g lo fit red oak. herbicide to bene created during larger openings Objective 2: In seedlings. plant in red oak pulpwood harvest, May or June s, hand plant in ng li ed se y Bu s: Task after harvest. est selectively harv 15 years, look to Objective 3: In mature red oak.


Courtesy of Johnny Micheel

Thirty years ago, John and Shirley had a simple vision: to buy a piece of land for gathering firewood and enjoying the outdoors with their children, Bob, Brenda, and Johnny. Today, that land has forests filled with high-quality timber, woodlands regenerating oak after well-executed harvests, savannas that have been restored through prescribed burning, and more. They represent a vision that has grown. “The first thing I do when I get out to the property,” says Bob, “is take ‘my walk’ to see what has changed.” For the children, the current owners, their vision has evolved from new knowledge. It has served them and their property well. The trees have always been the main source of income for the property. Over the years, large timber sales Bob, Brenda, neighbor Don Volkman, and Johnny. conducted infrequently have been replaced by smaller, more frequent harvests. It provides income that is more consistent, presents greater flexibility in managing the woods, and adjusts more easily to timber markets. Adding Christmas tree and black walnut plantations also created short- and long-term opportunities for income. The Micheels continue to appreciate the connection between their trees and wildlife—another family passion. They believe natural woods offer the greatest benefit to wildlife. The diversity of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers creates a tremendous amount of food and cover. Even the parts of their woods that are not the best for growing high-quality timber are excellent for oak, a great wildlife tree. Years ago, an open-grown oak may have been removed because its timber quality was low; today it is preserved for its great acorn production, a trade-off favoring wildlife. The Christmas tree and black walnut plantations provide less for wildlife, but they are a tradeoff in favor of forestry. For hunting and timber harvests, permanent access roads have been necessary. On the Micheels’ hilly land, thoughtful road design has saved 68

them time and money in unnecessary road repairs and damage to the land. In valleys, where water naturally concentrates, they slow and retain water through earthen dams, which in turn, serve as wildlife ponds. As they have used and enjoyed the property, they have learned to respect water’s tremendous ability to carry away unprotected soil. The Micheels pay careful attention to their land, so new problems get noticed. Recently, they have found invasive shrubs out-competing young seedlings in their woods. They are committed to getting the issue under control, but, with other demands in their lives, it is more realistic to address it over time. “Tackling a couple acres each year seems like a pace we can maintain,” says Johnny. In recent years, Bob and Johnny have begun bringing other management ideas back to the land, too. Fire was once naturally occurring but is largely absent today, owing to a loss of certain forest types. Although their father never considered fire, the sons thought maybe it was time. They have found fire to be effective in promoting oak regeneration and controlling competing tree species, helping them to restore prairie, savanna, and woodlands. Bob Micheel

The Micheel Family

The idea of the land as their family retreat has also evolved. They have hosted family Valiree Green (who is also a DNR forester) and reunions, Future Farmers her miniature horse, Diesel, help families pull out Christmas trees on the Micheel Farm. of America, neighborhood gatherings, deer camp, Boy Scouts, families cutting Christmas trees, and landowner field days. “As successes grew, Dad enjoyed showing people the land and giving them a few tree seedlings – get ’em hooked!” says Johnny. Their visitors’ excitement always made them feel good about their land. Over the past 30 years, nearly 1,000 people have toured the farm, and in 1987, John and Shirley earned Minnesota’s Tree Farmers of the Year Award, a formal validation of success. The Micheels demonstrate the dynamic and mutually beneficial relationship that is possible between land and landowner. Not only has a great piece of land been passed down through the family, so has an equally wonderful way of relating to it. 69

What types of land protections are available to landowners? Conservation Easements

What are my opportunities? Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Great-grandpa’s deer-hunting rifle; the handmade baby blanket; a pin honoring service—all are pieces of someone’s life that are handed down through families along with their stories. They are the tangible bits that make the stories come to life. Land can be one of those pieces, We have a sizeable piece of land. rich with great stories. Instilling enthusiasm and interest

in the next generation and creating a workable business model for our property is the only way for us to keep this thing going.

As our landscape rapidly changes more and more landowners sense that their land, and the stories that go with it, may be lost. Because land continues to exist long after we are gone, Mike Greenheck, Wabasha County landowner many are seeking ways to legally protect their property in the long term. Land trusts can help you explore options to make sure your land becomes your legacy.

What is a land trust? A land trust is a non-profit organization directly involved in the permanent protection of land and its resources for public benefit. They offer local citizens a way to preserve areas that are important to the community and give individuals options for protecting their property. Land trusts may accept donations of land, buy land, or help establish legal restrictions limiting development or undesirable uses. 70

Each easement is crafted to reflect the landowner’s individual needs and wishes for the land. Landowners retain the rights to own and sell eased property, but the easement restrictions will always be attached to the land title, remaining with the property forever. Most conservation easements are donated to a land trust, and the donation can provide significant tax advantages. In some cases, easements are sold to land trusts or agencies, sometimes as bargain sales. Registry If you are concerned with protecting the natural values of your land but are not ready to permanently protect it, you may want to consider registry. By registering your land with a land trust you make a commitment to protect the natural elements, features, and characteristics of your property. You also agree to notify the local land trust before you plan to sell or transfer the property, but the protection will not be effective beyond your ownership. Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Thinking Long-Term

Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements that restrict the way land can be used permanently. They do so by separating some of the rights of land ownership—the rights to develop, subdivide, or mine, for instance—from the rest of the rights of ownership. Those separated rights are effectively extinguished by being transferred to a non-profit land trust or a public agency committed to conservation. Easements may be structured to allow forestry practices. Easements also are referred to as Purchase of Development Rights, as is often the case in farmland protection programs.

Donating Land to a Land Trust If you are ready to give up ownership of your land, but want to make sure it stays protected, you may consider donating it to a land trust. Caring about the land is one of the most compelling reasons to donate land to a land trust, but you may also choose to do so because you have highly appreciated 71

Conservation options Retain Land Ownership

Transfer Land Ownership

Permanently Protect

Conservation Easement

Temporarily Protect

Registry Program

Transfer Ownership Now Transfer Ownership Later

Land Donation Bargain Sale Bequest

property that would generate large capital gains taxes if sold, you have substantial real estate holdings and you want to reduce your tax burdens, or your land has become too great a responsibility and you want to be certain it is managed and cared for by a group that appreciates its value. Bequests A bequest transfers ownership of property or an easement to a land trust through your will. This is a great choice if financial compensation is not a necessity and you want to maintain the current use of your land. A bequest may also be a good solution if your land has significant conservation value but there is no one to inherit it or the likely heirs cannot or will not protect it. Land Sales and Bargain Sales While most land trusts have limited funds for purchasing land, it may be possible for them to fundraise in order to buy a particularly important piece. A bargain sale may be negotiated if you need some compensation for

your property or easement, but can afford to sell to a land trust at a price below what you could receive on the open market. The difference between the maximum “fair market value” and the actual sale price is considered a donation to the land trust and is tax deductible for you.

Tax advantages of working with a land trust Income Tax Benefits If you make a gift of land or a conservation easement to a public agency or a land trust, you may be able to deduct the fair market value of that donation on your income taxes. Estate Tax Benefits

My kids will be the fourth generation to own the farm that we care about deeply. I actively involve them in all the “tough stuff ” like estate planning. I involve the fifth generation (my grandkids) in all the “fun stuff,” hoping to inspire their eventual ownership.

Many heirs to large tracts of open space, farms, natural areas, or timberland face substantial estate taxes. Estate tax is levied on a Allen Iverson, Dodge County property’s “highest and best use”— landowner usually the amount a developer or speculator would pay. The resulting tax burden can be so large that the heirs must sell the property to pay the taxes. A conservation easement can reduce estate taxes because the donation of the easement reduces the economic value of the property. Property Tax Benefits Local real estate property tax assessments are based on a property’s fullmarket value, which takes into account the property’s development potential. If a conservation easement reduces or removes this potential, the assessment, and thus the amount of real property taxes, may be reduced.

Additional resources: Contact the Minnesota Land Trust to learn more about your options for your land: The MDNR has a publication full of details about land protection options at:

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.



For Action

Contract: For a fee, landowners contract with DNR or other approved plan preparers such as forest consultants, environmental organizations, forest industry, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Eligibility: Private forest landowners, including corporations whose stocks are not publicly traded, who own 20 to 5,000 acres of land are eligible. At least 20 acres of the land must already have trees or landowner must plant trees. Contact: Your local DNR Forestry office.

Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

There are resources available to you as a private landowner to support you in learning, planning, and executing practices mentioned in this handbook. You do not have to go it alone on any of the practices mentioned. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Services Agency (FSA), US Fish and Wildlife–Private Lands Office (FWS–PLO), Department of Revenue (DOR), and your local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) all can provide technical, financial, and land protection assistance to help. Understand that funding for these programs varies from year-to-year. Maintaining contact with a program’s representative will alert you to any changes and can help you to navigate what might be unfamiliar territory.

Technical Assistance

Forest Stewardship Program Purpose: To provide technical advice and long-range land management planning to interested landowners. All aspects of the program are voluntary. Plans are designed to meet landowner goals while maintaining the sustainability of the land. The entire property is covered by the plan, except active farming areas. Practice: A registered Forest Stewardship Plan is necessary to receive state cost-share or enroll in 2c Managed Forest Land property tax programs. 74

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Financial Support

Purpose: Provide technical assistance to landowners for resource assessment, practice design, resource monitoring, or follow-up of installed practices. Practices: Technical assistance can help landowners to understand practices that can improve water quality, wildlife and fish habitat, recreation, aesthetics, sustainable agricultural practices, and land management technologies. Eligibility: Anyone who owns or operates land. Contract: None; recommendations are directed toward accomplishing landowner objectives. Contact: NRCS,

Financial Assistance

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) Purpose: CRP and CCRP reduce erosion, increase wildlife habitat, improve water quality, and increase forestland. Practices: Landowner or operator sets aside cropland (or pasture that is adjacent to surface water) and receives annual rental payments through the contract period. Cost-share may be available for tree planting, grass cover, small wetland restoration, or prairie and oak savanna restoration. Eligibility: Varies by soil type and crop history. CCRP funds many practices; eligibility is determined by land and landowner criteria. 75

Contract: Ten to 15 years. Contract is transferable with change in ownership. Public access is not required. Contact: FSA, NRCS, DNR; or www.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Purpose: To provide financial and technical assistance to landowners to implement management practices on their lands. Practices: All properly implemented forest management practices are eligible, including timber stand improvement, site preparation for planting, culverts, stream crossing, water bars, planting, prescribed burn, hazard reduction, fire breaks, silvopasture, fence, grade stabilization, and more. Eligibility: Applicant must have at least $1,000 in annual income from agricultural operation or must have nonindustrial private forestland or land capable of growing trees. Funds are directed to projects that offer the greatest environmental benefits.

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

timber rattlesnakes and other at-risk bluff prairie species. Eligibility: Private landowner in priority areas.

Contract: Contract length from one to 10 years. Producers may be eligible for flat rate payments based on average costs of the practices. Public access is not required.

Contract: A 10-year management agreement beginning from the date work is completed. Public access is not required. Contact: DNR;

Contact: NRCS;

Partners for Fish & Wildlife

Landowner Incentive Program (LIP)

Purpose: Restoration of wetlands, cold-water streams, prairies, savannas, and threatened or endangered species habitats.

Purpose: Assist private landowners in managing or restoring bluff prairie habitat for rare species in southeastern Minnesota.

Practices: Up to 100 percent cost-share provided to restore wildlife habitat on private lands. Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Practices: Technical assistance and up to 100 percent of a practice, such as cedar removal, invasive species control, and prescribed burning to benefit

Eligibility: Private land where hydrology and vegetation can be restored or maintained, providing habitat for migratory birds and threatened or endangered species. Contract: Minimum ten years. Public access is not required. Contact: FWS–PLO, or 800.814.6290.

Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) Purpose: To develop or improve fish and wildlife habitat. Practices: Prairie and savanna restoration and establishment, fencing, instream fish structures, livestock exclusion, tree planting, and more. Eligibility: All private land is eligible unless it is currently enrolled in



CRP, WRP, or a similar program. Each year, certain types of habitat are designated as WHIP priorities. Interested landowners should contact NRCS to learn more about the current year’s emphasis. Contract: Agree to maintain practices for a minimum of five to 10 years. Cost-share assistance is available for installation of conservation practices, covering up to 75 percent of costs, with a maximum of $10,000. Landowner assists with installation costs, and other organizations may provide additional cost-share money. Public access is not required.

Contract: Enrollment is for a minimum of eight years. Covenant stays with the property if it is sold. Contact: DOR, or 651.556.6088.

Contact: NRCS,

2c Managed Forest Land Classification

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

Purpose: Property owners receive a reduced property tax class rate of 0.65 percent on eligible land.

Purpose: CSP rewards forest landowners doing sustainable management by encouraging agricultural and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation activities and adopt additional ones in their operations.

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Practices: An annual payment for five years is available for installing new conservation activities and maintaining existing activities. Annual payments will be $8 to $12 per forested acre, depending on the situation. Payment may not exceed $40,000 in any year and $200,000 during any five-year period. Eligibility: Applicants must own or control the land for the term of the five-year contract. They must also comply with highly erodible land, wetland conservation, and adjusted gross income provisions. Contact: NRCS, www.

Tax Incentives

Sustainable Forest Incentive Act (SFIA) Purpose: Enrolled landowners receive annual payments from the Minnesota Department of Revenue to practice long-term sustainable forest management.


least 50 percent forested. Land must have an active forest management plan less than 10 years old and prepared by a DNR-approved plan writer. Land cannot be enrolled in Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM), CRP, CCRP, Green Acres, Ag Preserves, or 2c Managed Forest Land.

The public cost-share programs have been very valuable in helping us take care of our property.

Eligibility: Applicants must enroll at least 20 acres of contiguous forested land (maximum 1,920 statewide) and have an active and Kent Holen, Houston County registered Forest Stewardship Plan less than 10 landowner years old. Land cannot be used agriculturally or be enrolled in SFIA, CRP, CCRP, RIM, or Green Acres program. Contract: No minimum term of enrollment. Property will receive reduced tax class rate as long as it is enrolled and continues to meet the necessary requirements. Contract is not transferable to new ownership. Contact: County assessor’s office or DNR Forestry office;

Rural Preserve Program Purpose: Provides qualifying landowners a partial property tax deferral for rural vacant land (Class 2b) in areas where the market value of land is affected by development pressure, sales of recreational land, or other factors. Practice: Real estate taxes on enrolled land are based upon a value that is not influenced by outside factors such as urban sprawl or seasonal activities. Landowners must sign a covenant stating that they will not develop the land for 10 years. When the covenant is terminated, the owner must pay back deferred taxes for the last three years and all deferred special assessments.

Practices: Record a covenant with your county recorder’s office that will require you to maintain your land as forest, follow your forest management plan, and abide by the Minnesota Forest Management Guidelines.

Eligibility: Rural vacant land (Class 2b) must be part of an agricultural homestead or previously enrolled in Green Acres. Land can not be simultaneously enrolled in Green Acres, Open Space, or SFIA. A Conservation Management Plan approved by the soil and water conservation district is also required.

Eligibility: Applicants must own 20 or more contiguous acres that are at

Contact: County assessor’s office; file by May 1 for the next taxes-payable year. 79

Land Protection Programs

Forest Legacy Program (FLP)

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP)

Purpose: Identifies and protects environmentally important private forestland threatened by conversion to non-forest.

Practices: Focus on restoring water quality through permanent vegetation cover and hydrology restoration. Eligibility: Private landowners are eligible to enroll agricultural land with degraded and restorable wetland features. Contract: WRP offers either permanent or 30-year conservation easements, or a 10-year restoration cost-share agreement which does not require an easement. Permanent easements pay 100 percent of the agricultural value of the land and 100 percent cost-sharing; 30-year easements pay 75 percent of the agricultural value and 75 percent costsharing; 10-year contract pays 75 percent cost-share only. New WRP eligibility requires that an easement cannot be created on land that changed ownership within the previous seven years. Public access is not required.

Eligibility: Land must have one or more of the following public benefits: public recreation access; provide timber or forest products; ecological, cultural or environmental benefit; or contribute to the protection of large areas of forestland.

Note: A Wetland Reserves Plan of Operation is required with all contracts.

Contact: DNR; forestlegacy or 507.333.2012.

Contact: NRCS;

Minnesota Forests for the Future (MFF)

Steve Swenson, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Purpose: Protect and conserve private forestland throughout Minnesota. Description: Purchase conservation easements or fee simple interest to provide public recreation, timber production or other economic return, or ecological values such as habitat protection. Eligibility: Private forestland. Contract: Federal, state, and private funds purchase permanent conservation easements or fee simple interest in land to protect and conserve forestland through the state.

Contact: DNR; 80

Description: Federal and local matching funds purchase conservation easements. Landowner retains ownership and can continue to foster forest uses such as timber management, recreation, hunting, and hiking, as long as they are not in conflict with the easement.

Contract: Easements are permanent, annually monitored, and held by DNR.

Prairie Bank Easement Program

Erik Thomsen, ‘KĂź-lÄ“ Region Forestry, Inc.

Purpose: To restore, protect, and enhance wetland function and value while retaining ownership of the land.

Purpose: Landowners can protect native prairie on their property through a conservation easement with DNR. Permanent easements receive priority. Description: Landowners receive payment for their native prairie land while keeping it in private ownership to pass on to future generations. Certain agricultural practices are included in some easements, such as livestock grazing, mowing for hay, or harvesting of native seed. Eligibility: Applicant must have native prairie vegetation that has never been plowed. Because funding for this program is limited, other considerations prioritize tracts, such as the quality of prairie land, variety of plants and animals, and proximity to other prairie units. Contract: A permanent Prairie Bank easement will pay a percentage of the average value of cropland in the township. This percentage varies, but the easement payout can equal half or more of the total value of the land. Contact: DNR; html or 651.259.5098. 81

• If invasive species are capable of out-competing native wildflowers and tree seedlings, then control is needed.


Where Do My Woods and I End Up?

Erik Thomsen, ‘Kü-lē Region Forestry, Inc.

The relationship between people and land is complex. From the beginning, the possible directions are almost limitless. Neighbors will often follow different paths, yet both are equally capable of developing a mutually beneficial relationship with their land. The relationship changes as people buy and sell land, woods get Land-health is the capacity “darker” or “lighter,” harvests come and go, new invasive species invade, for self-renewal in the soils, generations change, and wildlife waters, plants and animals that populations go up and down. The collectively comprise the land. relationship needs grounding in Aldo Leopold, “Conservation in Whole a perspective that, regardless of or Part?” (1944) direction or change, allows it to be successful. But with all these possible directions and changes, how do you know if you are headed the right way? How do you define success? Land is healthy when all of its parts—common, unique, influential, and less influential—operate like the car in the example we started with, in “excellent running condition.” In your relationship with your land, your care can provide some of the things your land needs to be healthy: 82

Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation

• If the wildlife you enjoy— unique and common— depends on your woods for food, shelter, and breeding, you should find ways to meet their needs somewhere on the landscape.

• If fire sustained oaks and unique fire-dependent plants and animals in the landscape in the past, then prescribed fire is needed, today and in the future. • If future harvests in our woods depend on regeneration of new trees, then a thoughtful harvest and regeneration plan ensures quality trees for tomorrow. • If climate change will affect southeastern Minnesota in the decades to come, then helping your woods adapt to the anticipated changes is needed. If land is healthy, it can provide nearly everything you and your family need and want—food, fiber, recreation, wildlife, and beauty—and sustaining healthy land guarantees these benefits will be around for future generations. Increasingly, the performance of healthy land depends on our care of land.

We have owned our land for only eight years, but we understand what actions we need to take to continue our enjoyment of it. Our role is bigger and more important than we ever imagined.

Dale and Suzanne Rohlfing, We hope this handbook has Wabasha County landowners encouraged you to think about your relationship to your land and take steps, maybe your first, toward managing your land. If so, start simply and don’t go it alone. Get a forester or other resource professional to walk your land with you. See what funding might be available to assist you in reaching your goals and objectives. There is plenty of information available on almost any topic of interest to you. Most of all, give your relationship with your land the time and patience it needs to develop into one that is mutually beneficial and lasting. 83

Handbook Partners: Put Them to Work For You!

American Tree Farm System® American Tree Farm System® (ATFS) promotes the sustainable management of forests through education and outreach to private forest landowners. Founded in 1941, ATFS has 24 million certified acres of privately owned forestland and 90,000+ family forest owners who are committed to excellence in forest stewardship. Tree Farmers manage their forestlands for wood, water, wildlife, and recreation with assistance from 4,680 volunteer foresters. You may have seen green and white Tree Farm signs on your travels around Minnesota. The American Tree Farm System is a program of the American Forest Foundation which partners with volunteer foresters, landowners, and other supporters. Volunteer Tree Farm Inspectors must meet minimum education and experience requirements. For information on Tree Farming in Minnesota, contact the Minnesota Tree Farm Committee at or visit

Community Forestry Resource Center The Community Forestry Resource Center promotes responsible forest management by encouraging the longterm health and prosperity of small, privately owned woodlots, their owners, and their communities. For more information about the Community Forestry Resource Center, contact, visit, or call 612.870.3407.

Dovetail Partners Dovetail Partners provides authoritative information about the impacts and trade-offs of environmental decisions, including consumption choices, land use, and policy alternatives. They employ a highly skilled team to foster sustainability and responsible behaviors by collaborating to develop unique concepts, systems, models, and programs. Dovetail solves complex business problems, helping responsible firms to become successful. They help regions define programs that create jobs and increase job quality of resource-based industries. Visit or call 612.333.0430 for more information. 84

Driftless Area Initiative The Driftless Area Initiative is led by the region’s six Resource Conservation and Development Councils (RC&Ds), and works to coordinate natural resource conservation efforts in the 4-state area. It unites organizations and individuals within the Driftless Area of the Upper Mississippi River Basin for collaborative action to enhance and restore this region’s ecology, economy, and cultural resources in a balanced and integrated fashion. For more information, visit or call 608.723.6377 ext. 135.

Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts MASWCD is a nonprofit organization that exists to provide leadership and a common voice for Minnesota’s soil and water conservation districts and to maintain a positive, results-oriented relationship with rule making agencies, partners and legislators; expanding education opportunities for the districts so they may carry out effective conservation programs. For more information, visit or call 651.690.9028.

Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources BWSR is the state soil and water conservation agency, and it administers programs to prevent sediment and nutrients from entering lakes, rivers, and streams; enhance fish and wildlife habitat; and protect wetlands. The board consists of representatives of local and state government agencies and citizens. For more information, visit or call 651.296.3767.

Minnesota Deer Hunters Association MDHA supports 66 chapters throughout Minnesota, all “working for tomorrow’s wildlife and hunters today through education, habitat, and legislation.” MDHA local chapters provide assistance in habitat improvement projects, food plot seeding, youth education opportunities, and lobbying for members in the Minnesota State Legislature. For more information, visit or call 507.867.3562. 85

Minnesota Forest Resources Council MFRC works to promote long-term sustainable management of Minnesota’s forests. The MFRC Southeast Regional Landscape Committee encourages landowners to consider landscape-level context, coordinates and supports projects that promote sustainable forest management, develops and implements specific projects aligned with regional forest resource plans, and monitors activities and outcomes. For more information, visit or call 651.603.0109.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry works to sustain and enhance functioning forest ecosystems, provide a sustainable supply of forest resources to meet human needs, protect lives and property from wildfires, and provide a dollar return to the permanent school trust. We accomplish this through cooperative forest management, fire management, and state land management. For more information on the Division of Forestry, visit or call 651.259.5300.

Minnesota Forestry Association Minnesota Forestry Association is the only statewide organization of, by, and for Minnesota’s private woodland owners. MFA looks out for the interests of private woodland owners at state government and the legislature, with two tax programs beneficial to woodland owners (2c and SFIA) being examples of achievement. For more information, visit www. or contact

Minnesota Land Trust The Minnesota Land Trust is a statewide, nonprofit conservation organization operating out of regional offices. The Land Trust’s conservation efforts focus on protecting important lands within the broad critical landscapes that are characteristic of the state’s natural and scenic beauty. It has become a state and national leader in using conservation easements and has extensive experience working with private landowners to protect their land for conservation values. The Minnesota Land Trust has completed nearly 400 land protection projects since 1993. For more information, visit or call 651.647.9590. 86

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) The NRCS is the primary federal agency authorized to work with private landowners to help protect natural resources on their lands. NRCS programs and technical assistance provide a voluntary, incentive-based approach to conservation of soil, water, and related resources. For more information, visit and click “Contact Us” to find your local office.

Partners for Fish and Wildlife – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program restores important fish and wildlife habitats on private lands. This program has been successfully carried out nationwide through the cooperation of landowners, who voluntarily offer drained wetlands and degraded uplands or reparian areas for restoration. Habitats can be restored with cost-share assistance to participating landowners who agree to protect their restored wetlands and uplands for a minimum of 10 years. These partnerships have generated significant habitat restoration accomplishments on private lands in Minnesota. For more information, visit minnesota.htm or call 800.814.6290.

University of Minnesota Extension The University of Minnesota Extension has fact sheets, longer publications, and web-based content on a variety of southeastern Minnesota woodland topics. Extension also offers workshops yearround. For more information visit or

Woodland Advisor Program Minnesota’s Woodland Advisor program offers learning opportunities for anybody interested in Minnesota woodland care and management, agroforestry, and related topics. Trained Woodland Advisors are active volunteers who connect other landowners to the best sources of information to suit their needs. For more info visit 87

AFF_Conservation_Sign_WI_8-21:AFF Awareness Sign_SC_0518


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Conservation Forestry IN ACTION

Conservation Forestry Awareness Sign Every woodland owner who decides to take action to improve or maintain the health of their land deserves recognition. We would like to recognize your contributions toward sustaining healthy land by giving you a sign for your property. Not only is this recognition for your hard work, but also might inspire your friends and neighbors to consider their relationship to land. If you are following the actions described in this guide, please let us know by filling out the included form. We will send you a 11x17-inch aluminum sign. Alanna Koshollek, Aldo Leopold Foundation


Wisconsin My Healthy Woods Handbook  
Wisconsin My Healthy Woods Handbook  

A handbook for family woodland owners in Southwestern Wisconsin