DNR releases update on health of forest land

VALUABLE WILDERNESS: Efforts continue to try and save trees from invasive species. (Courtesy photo)
VALUABLE WILDERNESS: Efforts continue to try and save trees from invasive species. (Courtesy photo)

LANSING — Michigan’s 19.3 million acres of forest land play a key role in the state’s recreation, timber and other important industries, and the health of those forests is essential to sustaining this vital resource for many generations. The Department of Natural Resources recently released its 2012 Forest Health Highlights report, an overview of Michigan’s forests, the insects and diseases that have threatened them over the past year, and details about what DNR staff is doing to improve forest resources.

“Michigan offers one of the most diverse forest systems in the U.S.,” said Bill O’Neill, state forester and chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “Our staff and partners work hard every day to keep that forest land healthy and sustainable by identifying threats and eliminating them or mitigating their effects.”

The report breaks down forest health threats by examining insects and diseases, forest decline, invasive plant control and other health concerns. Accompanying photos and maps illustrate the pests and show the effects they have had on Michigan’s forest system.

Highlighted in the report is the work the DNR is doing in collaboration with Michigan Technological University to examine more than 30,000 acres of state forest land for signs of emerald ash borer (EAB) and beech bark disease (BBD). The process of harvesting ash and beech from identified areas is ongoing in an attempt to recover timber value before the resources are killed by the two exotic forest pests. EAB and BBD are killing ash and beech in hardwood forests throughout the state.

“We are ramping up efforts to salvage at-risk timber before trees are lost to these invasive species,” said Roger Mech, DNR forest health specialist. “Since we discovered these pests, millions of beech and ash trees have been killed. This collaboration is allowing us to get ahead of EAB and BBD and reduce ash and beech to such a level that mortality will not significantly affect the quality of the remaining trees or the productivity of the forest as a whole.”

To learn more about the ash and beech harvest and other threats facing the state’s forests, check out the 2012 Forest Health Highlights report by visiting www.michigan.gov/foresthealth.