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Conservation group to map old growth trees on private land in Vilas CountySubmitted: 07/06/2015

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EAGLE RIVER - Most of northern Wisconsin's forest didn't survive the cut-over from a century ago. However, some pockets did make it, and experts call those areas old growth. Now, the Northwoods Land Trust in Eagle River wants to figure out how much old growth is on private land in Vilas County.

Northwoods Land Trust will organize and run the project. Its executive director Bryan Pierce says he doesn't know exactly what they'll find.

"We really don't know how much old growth forest might remain on private lands in northern Wisconsin." Pierce said. "The DNR has an estimate of somewhere around one percent, possibly, of old growth forest habitat remaining since the original pines were cut."

The group will be looking for trees like hemlocks, large pines, and sugar maples. The goal is to help land owners who might want to conserve those types of trees.

"By far the majority of landowners that we work with, and the majority of property we work with, has been harvested, and it is often managed productively for timber," Pierce said. "Most of the time that's the case."
Researchers will keep the project in Vilas County. However, if things go well, it could spread to other nearby counties.

"The key is we don't know, so we're going to look at Vilas County first, and try to see if we can figure out a process, a series of processes that we can use to try to identifying that," Pierce said.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the challenge is to not only to preserve the small pockets of old-growth, but also to develop more old-growth. They also hope to learn how to mimic nature to better develop old-growth characteristics while simultaneously producing wood products for society's needs.

Pierce said they'll work with a GIS specialist. They'll also use computer technology, aerial photos, stereoscopic imaging, and eventually flyovers.


Story By: Adam Fox

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