Why it matters: The Nature Conservancy refers to the northern forests as "working forests" because in addition to their biological value, these forests are a key economic asset of the state and thousands of private landowners supporting a forest products sector with an annual value of over $17 billion. Additionally, these forests drive local economic activity by supporting year-round recreation opportunities and producing raw materials.

The sustainability and long term viability of Michigan’s forests can be threatened by pests, disease, and a rapidly changing climate. Because these are working forests, management choices made by landowners are of particular concern. Well- managed forests provide resiliency in the face of threats, and ecological benefits such as climate moderation can often be maintained and sometimes enhanced.

Strategies:

Develop innovative, analytical tools and work to train and support partners in utilizing Conservancy-developed tools such as Key Ecological Attributes (KEAs)and Climate Informed Metrics (CIMs). These tools help to plan, implement management activities and measure the diversity, health and resiliency of our forests.

  • KEAs measure the relative health of a timber stand, compared to an index of seven forest attributes. We have developed protocols for measuring KEAs and have put this in place on our working forestlands.
  • CIMs is a measure of climate sensitivity for a given timber stand that we developed jointly with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science. The United States Forest Service is now incorporating CIMs into their automated inventory management system.

Restore tree species diversity and demonstrate sustainable forestry
and climate-smart restoration practices at a commercial scale. For ten years, the Conservancy has been managing our Two Hearted River Forest Reserve,
producing timber to supply local mills and simultaneously restoring species and age diversity to the forest. We are now using the results from this to demonstrate the viability of a sustainable forestry approach.

Influence management choices of federal, state, industrial and
private forest land owners. To improve the health of Michigan’s forests, we need to work at scale across the state. This requires not only practicing sustainable management on our own forested lands, but also influencing the management choices of other forest landowners. We do this in three ways:

  • Forest Stewardship Contracting
    Stewardship Contracting is a powerful tool, created by Congress, to help increase the active management and restoration of National Forests. In Michigan, The Nature Conservancy is entering into a Stewardship Contracting Agreement with the Ottawa, the Hiawatha and Huron Manistee National Forests to design and execute agreements that will use timber sale proceeds to improve the health of forests and restore natural assets in those forests.
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification
    We support expanding the adoption of forest certification by increasing the awareness of benefits and the demand for certified products. Our ultimate goal is to increase the acreage of FCS-certified lands to over 5.5 million acres. Currently about 4.5 million acres, or 24%, of Michigan’s 19 million forested acres, are FSC-certified.
  • Landscape Stewardship Planning
    By connecting forest owners, both public and private, and organizations to each other and to forest stewardship information, resources and assistance programs, we increase our collective capacity to protect and maintain the forests products, services and values on which this region depends. Working collaboratively, we can better address landscape-scale challenges that threaten the health and sustainability of our forests and other natural resources.

Protect forested land to connect habitats used by wide ranging and migratory species. Wide-ranging species such as moose, elk, wolves and migratory deer require large, connected blocks of forest to survive and thrive. We assist both public and private landowners across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to secure lands and easements, especially on parcels critical for connecting habitat. We have historically, and will continue, to acquire land and easements assuring healthy, resilient, connected forests for generations to come.

 

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