Larry Parnass wrote this story about a July windstorm in Wisconsin- worth reading in its entirety- also excellent photos. For westerners, it’s interesting that even though they have a healthy forest products industry, they too suffer from needing to remove the kind of woody material for which there is no market, or the prices are so low that removal can’t pay for itself. Too bad they can’t do chip and ship, as we previously discussed for Northern Arizona. Also the need to clear roads and keep people safe from falling trees seems like some of our insect-induced disturbances. We don’t hear much about the forests in the upper Midwest and I, for one, would like to hear more.
Their devastation remains topic No. 1 across Oconto and Langlade counties. As repairs and cleanups continue three months later, officials who manage federal, state and county forests still labor to grasp the extent of damage. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that at least 63,000 acres of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest were affected — a land area larger than the city of Milwaukee.
That impact doesn’t include blowdowns in state and county forests in the area, all of which have sent timber and pulpwood prices tumbling due to oversupply, taxing the ability of forest managers to get salvage wood to market before it spoils.
In early August, the state Department of Natural Resources, using initial field and aerial surveys, pegged the damage at more than 250,000 acres — that’s 390 square miles — including 14,577 acres of state land and 53,647 acres of private land open for public recreation.
Barron and Polk counties in northwest Wisconsin were also badly hit, with spotty storm damage in Wood, Portage and Waupaca counties west of Green Bay.
Richard Lietz, Oconto Falls team leader for the state DNR’s Division of Forestry, has walked battered woodlands with private landowners, offering advice. “It’s a lot to take in. It comes as quite a shock,” he said. “There are hundreds and hundreds of people that are affected.”
John Lampereur, a U.S. Forest Service staff member in the Lakewood/Laona Ranger District, calls the storm a once-in-a-career event. After seeing tangled mounds of jack-strawed trees, some in piles 15-feet deep, Lampereur made a prediction.
“I told my wife. ‘This is going to change everything. We’re going to be working on this for 10 years,’” he said.
Lampereur, the Lakewood district’s expert on forest management, estimates that at least 10,000 acres of forest saw complete blowdown.
“The scale of it is so big that you feel powerless to effect what you consider meaningful change,” he said. “We’re going to do our best. To say that we are going to clean up 50,000 acres, it’s not happening.”
Simply put, there is too much wood for the region’s forest-products industry to handle, even in a state that ranks in the top 10 in this sector.
“We’re only going to be able to absorb so much,” Lampereur said of forest products going onto the market as a result of the storm. “We’re kind of a can-do bunch. It’s hard to swallow your pride and say we’re not going to be able to do it all.”