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Sustainable forest management combines planning and management with professional advice.
Fred Clark, president of Clark Forestry in Baraboo and a consulting forester certified through the Forest Stewardship Council's SmartWood program, takes sustainable forest management one step further. He supports certification as a way to show long-term commitment to land management.
Because SmartWood certifies him, Clark may extend certification to property owners if they wish.
"For certification the client signs an agreement and follows the plan I have set," Clark says. "Any timber off the property, then, could go through a chain-of-custody process and carry the SmartWood label eventually winding up on the shelves of a retail outlet like The Home Depot."
To become certified, SmartWood evaluated Clark's operation, management plans and documentation. They interviewed him and his clients.
One of Clark's recent projects? Developing and implementing a management plan for 400 woodland acres on the Taliesin property in Spring Green, the former estate of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Clark and his crew begin by "cruising," conducting an on-ground evaluation of the forest and its current and historical management. Clark measures and ages trees, notes vegetation and wildlife habitat, cites exotic species, records "snag" trees (standing dead trees of no economic value, that may house wildlife) and interviews the landowners about their goals for the property.
Clark also reviews maps and DNR aerial photos of the forest area and gets his arms around a lot of trees as he takes measurements.
"I try to get an idea for what kinds of wildlife a property is able to support and note things like eagle nests," he says.
Clark will visit a property throughout the seasons.
Walking into a stand of white pine seedlings, he gets an idea. This stand might be groomed for wildlife habitat and high quality timber by using selection harvesting. In another area he'd recommend prescribed burning to bring back prairie that was native to the area and will aid fire-dependent tree species like oak.
"These woods can continue to be a forest, but if we want to return the stand to a historic prairie, we might try to turn back the clock and open the canopy," Clark says of the Taliesin estate.
While some foresters think certifying woods will provide a premium for wood prices that will filter back to the landowner, Clark says he's not seeing that yet.
"It's still a niche market and financial gain is almost a secondary concern for us," Clark says. "We are certified because it is good for the resource and because our clients are interested in sustainable management and good land stewardship."
It can take six months or more to complete a management plan before harvesting can occur.
In many cases, a logging contract is drawn up between landowner and wood purchaser to specify which trees will be removed and in what way. Clark helps the landowner decide on logging techniques that range from clear-cutting to seed tree harvesting, thinning, selection harvesting and salvage harvesting. Different harvesting methods create different conditions.
"The neat part of my job," Clark says, "is to see the property get managed after all the work that goes into the planning. If we do it right, hopefully more people will become attached to their land and maybe decide to keep the land from being sold and developed."