CURRAN - Normally a walk in the woods is good for the soul. But by the time 30 people completed an invasive species field trip through a Curran forest on Friday, some were feeling overwhelmed. Natural resource professionals had given them a three-hour education about pests and invasive species that are destroying the Michigan woods.
"All you can do is really educate yourself and try to do your best to eradicate certain species," said Andrew Beebe of the Alcona Conservation District's Forestry Assistance Program.
Land owners also can invest in a customized forestry plan, prioritize their needs and combat specific issues.
The event combined not only Beebe's organization, but also foresters from conservation districts in Alpena and Ogemaw and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. As they walked through a 172-acre parcel owned by Paul De Longpre, experts Lora Freer, Ben Nowakowski and Bryan Zabel pointed out issues. Among them are oak wilt, emerald ash borer and beech bark disease, which are spreading through Northeast Michigan.
Oak wilt is a fungus carried by the wind and by flying insects, Freer said. Once the disease gets into a red oak through a wound or broken branch, the tree is dead within a year. White oaks also are affected, but take a decade or longer to succumb.
One solution is to cut down the infected tree, and cover the logs with tarps that are sealed tight with dirt, she said. Then the property owner needs to dig a 5- to 6-foot trench around the infected tree, severing underground roots. The next step is to dig a second root-severing trench around all other oaks touching the diseased tree, to be 99 percent effective.
In addition to disease, invasive plants such as Scotch pine, Japanese knotweed, autumn olive and honeysuckle are crowding out natives and weakening the forest, the foresters said.
"Persistence is all you've got here," Beebe said as he pointed out areas where autumn olive had been cut back and poisoned, only to produce new shoots this year. "You keep having to come back and treat it."
De Longpre also attended the tour after treating areas with a herbicide solution earlier in the day.
"It's a daunting task," he said. "In the last four year, we realized invasives were taking over and we had to do something besides just cutting down trees."
But he was upbeat. De Longpre had a forest management plan done for $2,000, and was reimbursed $1,800 by the National Resource Conservation Service.
"Most people spend money on the plan and then put it in the bureau because it takes a lot of work to do."
Then a blast email was sent to his eight brothers and sisters and his numerous nieces and nephews, who turn out in the spring to provide free labor.
"We target 20 acres at a time," he said. "Then we play."
De Longpre said the plan also calls for removing diseased beech and ash trees. Then poplar trees will be harvested for timber, reducing the density of his forest and making it healthier.
"Probably the poplar will make us money," he said.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.