Michigan’s Northeast Forests: What the Future Holds | News, Sports, Jobs
ALPENA — As the global climate changes, the Forest Resources Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is considering the future of the state’s 20 million acres of forest.
Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas total nearly 62 million acres. Thus, a third of Michigan is made up of forests.
Research by the US Forest Service reveals that in Michigan, 54% of forest land ownership is controlled by families and private landowners.
According to David Price, a DNR forest resources manager, about 4.2 million forested acres are owned and operated by the state.
For northeast Michigan, forests provide a variety of resources from wood growth to manufacturing to recreation, combined with a unique eco-balance for animals, insects, ground foliage, water control and many other valued areas.
The United States and the world are experiencing measurable and dramatic climate change, with extreme temperature rise, insufficient or massive rainfall, droughts, fires, and related challenges.
Price said the Forestry Division recognizes these changes and is actively studying the future of Michigan’s forests.
Already, their research sees changes in the types of forest trees, foliage, and inhabitants that will thrive and those that will not. He added that the division is seeking funds to develop a well-thought-out and responsive forestry strategic plan. In part, this study will be based on modeling suitable habitat, adaptability, migration capacity and potential.
The forests of northeast Michigan are an integral part of tourism, with general recreation as well as sport hunting and fishing. Coupled with tourism, there are significant jobs and millions of dollars in revenue generated from accommodation, assorted retail sales, restaurants and related services.
Michigan Forestry Division research noted that in northern lower Michigan, there are nearly 31,000 employees engaged in the lumber production and manufacturing industries. The division also cites that the state has about 300 sawmills, veneer mills, pulp and paper mills and engineered panel makers. Additionally, there are well over 1,000 other companies that produce finished lumber-related products.
In the four-county region of northeastern Michigan, Decorative Panels International, along with dozens and dozens of other companies, are associated with wood growing and subsequent manufacturing.
Arboriculture, harvesting, milling, and manufacturing of trees in northeast Michigan generates significant employment and income. Current research by the Michigan Forestry Division reveals that in Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency, and presto Isle counties, 925 people are employed. These professions generate more than $293 million in regional income.
In a recent multi-year study summarized by Peter Reich, a forest ecologist at the University of Michigan, he profiled research in several geographic areas, including northern Minnesota. His research focused on mixed hardwoods and boreal plants (trees and plants that thrive in freezing temperatures), including various conifers, paper birch, bur oak, and sugar maple and maple. red.
Using warming and related control techniques that increased temperatures from 2.9 degrees to 5.6 degrees, the research revealed dramatic changes. In particular, the growth of hardy boreal trees has decreased and insect infestation has increased.
Research in northern Wisconsin led by Steven Handler with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science is educating the public, the timber industry, tourism leaders, private landowners and concerned publics about what the climate change means for forests. During these presentations, he shares the dramatic climate-related projections of forestry research.
In media accounts describing research conducted in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Benzie counties by Assisted Tree Range Expansion, their spokesperson, Madeline Baroli, revealed that the scale wound insect literally sucks sap from beech barks, causing them to rot and die quickly.
Rising temperatures tend to increase insect infestation and survivability.
In another media account, Reich looked at the future of Michigan’s forest in 2100.
“My hunch is that by 2100 we will lose most spruce and fir trees,” he said. “We could lose some of the white cedar. Forests will be bushier and more open. They may still have a mix of species but will be less diverse…some sandier and drier areas may even convert to grassland.
Reich added, “These changes will have unpredictable impacts on animal habitat, the state’s timber industry, and how people can use forests for recreation.”
He concluded by stating that forests extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Similarly, in keeping the waters clean, if you look at the history of the Great Lakes and inland waters of Michigan, there have been considerable challenges, with invasive species such as zebra mussels and lampreys, as well as ‘with fertilizers and chemical additives such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
Indeed, Michigan’s forests offer a similar challenge to prepare for.
It’s no longer, “How much wood can a groundhog chuck?” On the contrary, what can humanity do to preserve our precious forests?
Northeast Michigan has a vested interest in this direction and this outcome.
Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired healthcare CEO and frequent writer of opinion pieces and feature articles. He is a former resident of Alpena and resides in suburban Detroit.