MADISON -- Many Wisconsin residents enjoy the beauty of our forests, especially during the next two months as the showy fall colors begin in the Northwoods and move through the state to southern Wisconsin. And a plan, recently completed by a wide variety of groups interested in Wisconsin forests, outlines a pro-active approach to managing and protecting the 16-million acres of forests in Wisconsin so future generations can also enjoy the beauty of this resource.
Although multiple factors - including weather during the growing season, just before the fall season as well as during the color show - influence the intensity, Wisconsin forests are noted for being among the best in the nation for fall color, according to Kirsten Held, Forestry Outreach Specialist for the Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry.
"The wet spring and excellent growing conditions earlier this year meant good foliage growth and this bountiful leaf cover bodes well for the 2011 fall color season that is beginning in the Northwoods now," Held said.
And the weather this past week also bodes well for a spectacular autumn show, Held added.
"Fall days filled with bright sunshine followed by cool nights create the most vibrant red fall color displays," according to Held. "These weather conditions cause lots of sugars to be produced by the trees and trapped in the leaves, leading to the production of anthocyanins and giving leaves of some species the brilliant shades of red, purple and crimson."
"Now we just need good weather for the fall color viewing - sunshine to illuminate the leaves and reflected light to showcase the incredible colors and no high winds so the leaves remain in place as long as possible."
It's hard to think about Wisconsin without envisioning forests and the many benefits they provide according to Rebecca Gass, a DNR forest planner who coordinated development of a new Forest Action Plan.
"Forests provide the basis for many rural communities in Wisconsin where forest products and tourism are mainstays of local economies and have a compatible coexistence," Gass said. "Forest-based recreation - including viewing the fall beauty - is estimated to contribute $5.5 billion to the Wisconsin economy through travel-related and equipment expenditures."
The Forest Action Plan offers solutions to the many challenges facing Wisconsin forests so they can continue to provide the wide array of social, cultural, ecological and economic benefits, including the income generated by visitors enjoying the fall color display.
"The Forest Action Plan proposes Wisconsin-specific strategies to ensure that future generations will also have healthy forests to enjoy," Gass said. "With the forestry community working together, Wisconsin will continue to have a rich and diverse forest resource to provide a show-stopping colorama every autumn."
Held adds that 2011 is both the International Year of Forests as well as the International Year of Chemistry - a perfect combination when applied to the extraordinary fall display in Wisconsin forests and the chemical reactions in the trees to produce the colors.
Everyone can play a role in protecting the forest now and for the future, according to Held.
"As you are recreating in Wisconsin forests and enjoying the fall beauty, remember to be careful with your campfires," Held said. "You can also follow simple steps to ensure that you are not spreading invasive insects, diseases and plants to our valuable forests, such as buying your campfire wood locally and cleaning off your shoes, vehicle and equipment before leaving the forest."
Also, a new trail guide app for Wisconsin's most-visited state property - the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - can help visitors view the fall colors on this property. Visit www.discoverycenter.net/nh-al-trail-iphone-app.html to access this free iPhone app through the North Lakeland Discovery Center at Manitowish Waters.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kirsten Held, Forestry Outreach Specialist, 608-264-6036