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Contact information
If you have questions, contact:
Kristen Tomaszewski
608-266-5202

Statewide Forest Action Plan Part 1: AssessmentCriterion 2: Maintenance of productive capacity of forest ecosystems

Major conclusions

The area of the Assessment focusing on maintenance of productive capacity of forest ecosystems draws four major conclusions based on the data.

1) Wisconsin has the capacity to sustain present levels of timber harvest if it remains an important objective of landowners

On a statewide basis, there is capacity to sustain--and in some cases increase--present levels of timber harvest from a purely wood volume standpoint at current growth, mortality and removals rates. This potential may not be achieved, however, primarily due to the diverse objectives of the many different public and private owners of Wisconsin's forest land. A growing number of family forest land owners manage for non-timber purposes.

  • Growth exceeded removals by at least 30 percent on Wisconsin timberlands from 1983 to 2007.
  • 50 of the 55 commercial species in Wisconsin have a growth rate greater than their removal rate. Their growing stock volume is also increasing.
  • Overall, private timberlands account for 11.4 million acres, or about 70 percent of all timberland available for wood production in Wisconsin. The majority of wood harvested is from private lands.
  • Private forest parcels are decreasing in size and the number of small forest owners (1-9 acres) increased by 84,000 owners (91 percent) between 1997 and 2006. Forest operations are more difficult on small parcels because they may be more difficult to access, they may have fewer bids due to small quantities and non-commercial practices may be more expensive because the benefit of economies of scale are not there. This is all in addition to the decreasing amount of family forest owners who want to harvest.
Federal national forests are unable to sell the allowable sale quantity (ASQ) in their approved plans. Many smaller DNR properties do not have master plans that establish a harvest objective.

2) Timberland and growing stock volume as a whole is increasing, but improving tree quality will require ongoing cultivation and precautions against destructive cutting practices

Wisconsin's timberland acres and growing stock volume are increasing. This trend is of benefit to not only the forest products industry and their access to the wood supply but non-consumptive uses that improve with greater acreage such as carbon sequestration and increased habitat for animals. This growth affords a greater potential to manage lands for diverse purposes (the option for reserving lands improves).

  • Wisconsin timberland totals 16.3 million acres and increased by 1.4 million acres between 1983 and 2007.
  • Growing stock volume increased steadily from 15.5 billion cubic feet in 1983 to 20.5 billion cubic feet in 2007.
  • Growing stock volume has been changing in quality, overall tree size and quantity. Poletimber volume declined from 1983 to 2007. Sawtimber volume increased in all tree grades from 1983 to 2007.
The volume of higher grade trees (1 and 2) has increased at a slower rate since 1996 whereas grade 3 and poorer increased at a much faster rate.

3) Decline in growing stock of four high volume commercial species is of concern

The decline in growing stock of high volume commercial species (mainly early successional species) is of concern. These trends are likely to continue. Species that are being replaced or converted include jack pine, paper birch and quaking aspen that are maturing with high mortality rates (all over two percent) and are heavily utilized (over 100 percent removals-to-growth ratio).

Due to the low availability of these species, forest industry will likely need to pay more for these or find substitutes. As these species decline, animals and plants that require these cover types may be adversely affected (as several game bird species prefer early successional habitat). It will be more difficult to regenerate some of these species--such as jack pine--because their acreage has decreased as well.

  • Four major commercial species have declined significantly in growing stock volume since 1983. These species include jack pine (45 percent decline), paper birch (40 percent decline), balsam fir (27 percent decline) and quaking aspen (14 percent decline).
  • Balsam fir (found mainly in the northern third of the state) is not an early successional species, but its mortality rate is over four percent and its removals to growth ratio is over 100 percent.

4) Generally across the state, the oak resource has remained fairly stable over the last ten years. However, there are concerns in specific regions regarding the change in oak volume and regeneration

  • The major oak species--other than northern red oak--increased in volume and have a lower than average mortality rate on a statewide basis between 1996 and 2007.
  • Thirty-four of the 72 counties in Wisconsin saw a decline in northern red oak growing stock volume between 1996 to 2007. However, the volume still increased from 1983 to 2007.
  • All oak species in Wisconsin, with the exception of northern pin oak (1.4 percent), have mortality rates that are equal to or less than the one percent average mortality rate for all species combined.

Black oak, northern red oak and white oak had removals-to-net growth ratios higher than the average for all species (59 percent). This appears to indicate that oak harvest intensity is variable in different areas of the state.

Last revised: Wednesday September 23 2015