Sustainable forest management in Michigan: Sharing the story

An immersive workshop experience to help K-12 teachers and other educators learn about Michigan’s rich forest resources

Workshop participants will have an opportunity to meet and learn from forestry experts. | Photo by Georgia Peterson

According to the most recent USDA Forest Service inventory, Michigan boasts over 20 million acres of forest land. That’s over half of the state’s total land area. While that is a lot of land under tree cover, that statistic only tells a fraction of the whole forest story. A simple drive from southern Michigan shows that the proportion of the land in forest increases as you travel north. The kinds of forests also change noticeably, from wooded patches dominated by oaks, then sometimes dense, leafy maples, or light and fluttering clumps of aspens, or stately rows of red pines. This simple trip north easily reveals the diversity of these different forest types, thanks to a combination of geography, topography, climate, and active forest management practices.

Professional foresters manage a large proportion of these forests—both on public and private land—for more than timber products. After all, both Michiganders and visitors alike enjoy a range of benefits from this diverse forest resource. We depend on forests for game and nongame wildlife habitat, various recreational activities, aesthetic beauty, and multiple environmental benefits. While we typically cannot get all benefits from every forest at the same time, foresters can work toward management that offers different benefits in the same location. This strategy is often called multiple use management.

Managing for jack pine is a clear example of multiple use management. Jack pines are an important source of fiber for pulpwood. Young jack pine forests are also critical habitat for the rare Kirtland warbler. This means that forest managers can use jack pines for an important forest product, offer critical bird habitat, and create opportunities for recreation (via bird watching enthusiasts) on the same forest acreage.

Enjoy fun hands-on activities in the north woods that teach basic forest management principles! | Photo by Georgia Peterson

How do foresters know how to plan for multiple uses? In what ways are trees harvested sustainably to maintain these benefits? How does a tree become a product that we can use in our everyday lives? What is a tree, anyway? And what makes a forest, a forest? All of these questions will be topics of discussion during the “Understanding Sustainable Forestry: A Workshop for Educators.” This week-long event is designed to give participants a unique opportunity to learn about and experience forest management activities in the woods. This event is especially structured toward K-12 teachers and informal educators, offering concepts and tools that can be incorporated into their own classrooms. For formal classroom teachers, 24 SCECH credits are available!

The “Understanding Sustainable Forestry” workshop is co-sponsored by the Michigan Forest Association and Michigan State University Extension. It will be held at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center near Roscommon, MI from Monday, June 17 through Friday, June 21, 2019. Lodging, meals, and materials are included in the $150 non-refundable registration fee. Space is limited, however, so sign up today through the following online link:, or by visiting the Michigan Forest Association website.

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