Jack pine harvested at Uppgaard WMA
By Paul Boblett, Editor
The Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area in Crosslake recently underwent a Jack pine timber harvest. Three Jack pine stands totaling 18 acres were harvested in December.
Some of the trees taken were as old as 89 years according to Rob Rabasco, DNR Assistant Area Wildlife Manager in Brainerd. Robasco said the DNR has planning documents for all the forests across the state, and the different species have to be harvested at different ages.
“We’re starting to push it with Jack pines after 60 years, or it will be standing dead, and the worst part of that is we won’t be able to use those to regenerate new growth. If you don’t harvest and get some cones on the ground, there would be no new growth.”
Robasco added, “Prior to development, Jack pine stands like these were dependent on catastrophic fire that would bring some trees down, and because the cones are fire resistant and underbrush would be gone, the heat from fire opens the cones and drops seeds, new jack pines would flourish.
The difference now is that we control fire, so this is a replacement harvest of the old jack pines. We leave some of the tops and branches and they’re drug against the ground to release the cones and spread them around.”
Robasco said the DNR likes to hold onto some of the stands and trees as long as they can, “But here we’re bumping up against a total loss as a WMA -- we’d be getting Ironwood and Hazelwood bushes - we want this to be a Jack pine forest. We know that with climate change, Jack pines are struggling a bit, so we’ll follow up with some planting because natural regeneration won’t happen with the type of reforestation we want.”
Normally with a timber sale, DNR Forestry will set up the sale and sell the wood at auction, and loggers will purchase the wood to be harvested.
But because of the sensitivity to public use and scrutiny, Robasco said they wanted to take the lightest possible touch on the landscape they could.
“Normally, those stands would be clear cut with reserves,” said Robasco, “everything but some trees that could regenerate the forest, leaving a big footprint, but we wanted something else. Originally we looked at someone to cut the trees by hand and use horses to pull it out, but no one does that anymore -- we really tried to make that happen, instead we went with the smallest operation we could: a single machine grabbing trees one by one, cutting to length (saleable at a mill) - tiptoeing around and cutting into logs.
Those sorts of light touch machines are very uncommon, which limited the number of choices to have the work done.
He added that the harvest didn’t go to auction, “We knew we wanted to do a low disturbance operation, so we went out and looked for a single tree machine, called an informal sale, and we contacted operators with that type of equipment.
Robasco noted that there are some misconceptions with the Uppgaard WMA, stating that many locals are often surprised that normal rules apply to the area, and that hunting is legal.
A local group called the “Grub Club” weeds gardens and performs trail maintenance, however the land is managed by the DNR Wildlife division. Although the DNR did not publicize the sale, Robasco said they met with the club and discussed the harvest at length.
“For the good of the forest, our main job is to keep that as a Jack pine forest”, added Robasco.
Donated to the DNR by the Uppgaard family in 1987, the 110-acre tract has been specially landscaped to attract various wildlife. The WMA is Minnesota's first "Landscaping for Wildlife Demonstration Area". This habitat management approach creates specific plant communities in combination with the use of feeders, nest boxes, dust beds, brush and rock piles and snags to entice animals.