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Mr. B's Forestry Home

Welcome!  This Web page is a collection of links to some of the multimedia productions that I have been making for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry.  These presentations are all recorded using Sonic Foundry's Mediasite - a system to create online training, briefings and courses in a Web-streaming format.  Wisconsin's forests continue to represent some of the state's most important assets.

While I am not responsible for the content of these presentations, I do go out on location with all equipment necessary to record, improvise the optimal set-up, coach presenters on the Mediasite format, and work with each presenter to ensure that they are comfortable with the process and equipment that is used. 

These presentations are all "live takes" - there is not an opportunity to go back, rerecord, or edit.  Like everything else in life, it necessitates compromises between an ideal and matters at hand.

I have assembled a large collection of online and print resources to supplement and extend the coverage of forestry topics covered in the Webcasts presented here.  My goal is to help share information with educators, students, and all those that are stakeholders in forest issues.

These presentations are best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher.  The formats used vary from traditional lecture style presentations, to narrated slideshow, to a variety of streaming video productions. 

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Wisconsin's Forests
By Bill Breitsprecher

The woodlands of Wisconsin have been an important part of human culture for 11,000 years.  Evidence shows that native Indians cleared land by burning the stands of oak trees to provide habitat for wildlife and horticulture. 

When Europeans started settling in these lands, around the mid 1800's, the territory of Wisconsin had more than two-thirds of its land area covered with trees.  It was part of a belt of woodlands that reached from New England through the Great Lakes.  The northern portions of the state and the upper peninsula were the most heavily forested regions.

After the Civil War, in the late 1860s, logging became one of Wisconsin's most important industry.  The state became a world leader in lumber production by 1893 with more than 3.5 billion board feet produced annually. Logs were felled and transported to mills via the state's many rivers - sawmills were common along waterways.  The emerging railways hauled the finished products to booming cities to the south and west.

The most common tree was pine - it is estimated that 130 billion board feet of high grade pine were harvested from Wisconsin by the end of the 19th century.  There were also large stands of hemlock, spruce, cedar and hardwoods.  As vast as the stocks of trees were, demand across the developing United States was even greater. 

The lumber boom started with the immense and plentiful pine trees.  As the rail network developed, demand for hardwoods increased and soon, markets developed for less-desirable timber as well.

The forests of Wisconsin were largely clear-cut by 1900.  This clear-cutting created challenges, many of the effects are still felt today.  Cleared land was susceptible to wildfires, resulting in loss-of-life and further destruction of timber resources. 

As lumber companies cleared the land, they sold the tracts of cut-over land to speculators that, in turn, marketed smaller sections of land to newly arriving immigrants.  Often these people were enticed to come to America by the promise of owning land.  They hoped to sustain themselves and their families by farming.

The land, however, was covered with tree stumps and foliage that was not economical to harvest.  As this was cleared, the refuge was usually burned, which lead to more problems with wildfires.

Sadly, much of the land that was sold to these immigrants could not economically sustain agriculture.  The sandy, acidic soil that was perfect for pines and the old growth forests was not suitable for agriculture crops.  Those working these lands could not support their families.  Many settlers defaulted on their financial obligations - the land was not what they were promised. 

The clear-cutting, burning, and transition to agriculture dramatically changed Wisconsin's forests and wildlife habitats.  Species like aspen and paper birch became the most common trees.  Large populations of whitetail deer and other wildlife also thrived in that early transitional habitat.

By the 1930s, most of the state's valuable timberland had been cut down or destroyed by fire.  The timber industry had moved on.  In 1936, the state conducted a detailed inventory of its forestlands.  The "old growth" trees were largely gone - Wisconsin had very young forests. 

Aspen-birch trees were the most common.  These young stands of trees, however, were not large enough to harvest.  Wisconsin's timber industry had died - logging operations moved west.  It would be many years before Wisconsin's forests could again support a lumber industry.

The good news is that by the mid 1900s, principles of sustainable forest management were being developed.  Wisconsin learned from its past.  Professional foresters, from the public and private sectors, oversaw the re-growth of Wisconsin's forests. 

Largely due to the foresight of conservation activists and foresters, the woodlands of Wisconsin were able to make a dramatic comeback.  Once again, Wisconsin is America's lumber basket.  Approximately 16 million acres of the state's 32 million total acreage is now forested - not as many trees as before the European settlement, but a huge improvement from the clear-cut era.

Most of this growth is a result of marginal agricultural land being returned to forests.  Today, hardwoods dominate Wisconsin's forests, making up 84% of the trees.  The most common trees are maple-basswood, aspen-birch and oak-hickory.

Softwoods are also represented - especially in the northern parts of Wisconsin where red pine, jack pine, black spruce, northern white cedar, and tamarack are the most common trees.

Since the 1936 inventory after the clear-cut, aspen-birch woodlands have steadily decreased.  Red pine, jack pine, black spruce, northern white maple-basswood, soft maple-ash, and oak-hickory forests have increased.  Conifer forest area has remained constant.

In Wisconsin, 70 percent, or 11.4 million acres of forests are privately owned.  The breakdown of acres and ownership is:

  • Total forestland:  15.7 million acres
  • Privately owned:  8.9 million acres
  • Forest Industry:  4.7 million acres
  • Industry:  1.1 million acres
  • Federal:  2 million acres
  • State:  200,000 acres
  • Private Corp:  .62 million acres
  • Tribal Lands:  .31 million acres

Forestry is again making a huge contribution to Wisconsin's economy as the second largest industrial segment in the state, leading the nation with $20 billion in shipments of forest products.  Wisconsin leads the nation in papermaking and in forest industry wages -  a $3.5 billion annual payroll.  Forest-based recreation is also an important economic activity in the state, brining in $3.5 billion in revenue.

The value of forests cannot be entirely quantified in dollars.  Wisconsin's woodlands make significant contributions to the ecological and social aspects of the state.  Forests support wildlife. White tail deer, black bear, gray wolf, fisher and ruff grouse are abundant wildlife, thriving in Wisconsin's  forests.  Woodlands attract visitors and residents to the state by providing recreational and scenic settings.

But trees provide so much more than social and economic benefits, Wisconsin's forests help clean the air and water.  To produce leaves and wood, forests take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, a process called to carbon sequestration.  Carbon dioxide is a leading greenhouse gas that can contribute to global climate change - trees play an important role in providing ecological balance.

In many ways, the rebirth of Wisconsin's forests represents a success that demonstrates how industry, conservationists, and public and private stakeholders can cooperate to manage resources. 

The native forests of Wisconsin played an important role in the development of America.  While those old growth forest resources were exhausted, today, the state is again able to support this nation with a dynamic timber industry. 

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[Invasive Species] [Maple Syrup] [Wood Industry]
[Woodland Owners] [For Kids] [For Teachers] [In the News]
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Quick Links to

Fire Prevention

Burning News Flash, "Into the Outdoors"

Home Improvements: A Firewise Approach

Firewise Landscaping, Part 1

Firewise Landscaping, Part 2

Firewise Landscaping, Part 3

Forest Management

Climate Changes & Effect on Wisconsin's Forests

Community Wildfire Protection Plans

Forest Futures: Taking Stock of Our Assets

Forest Story: Restoring Wisconsin's Treasure

Impact of MFL & Ag Use Assessment

Land Use/Demographic Changes & Impacts on Forests

Managed Forest Law (MFL) Changes

Prescribed Fire & Oak Management

Principles of Wildlife Management

To cut or not to cut? Part 1

To cut or not to cut? Part 2

Tree Planting & Reforestation in the CWD Zone

Wetland Restoration & Management

Woodland Damage from Wildlife

Invasive Species

Drought Impact on Forest Pests - Jack Pine Budworm

Emerald Ash Borer: An Emerging Threat To Wisconsin's Forests

Emerald Ash Borer: The Green Menace

Forest Health Issues Including Emerald Ash Borer

Oak Wilt: Biology and Management in Wisconsin

Oak Wilt: Prevention & Management

Oak Wilt & Emerald Ash Borer

Maple Syrup

Sweet Stewardship: Managing for Maple Syrup

Wood Industry

The Impact of China on Forest Industry in the Lake States

Markets for Forest Products

New Age Paper Mills

Reacting and Adjusting to Global Impacts

Wisconsin's Timber Resources, Current Markets and Concerns

Woodland Owners

Estate Planning Options

Fawn Lake - A Family Time Share

Property Ownership & Distribution: Who will get Grandma's yellow pie plate?