Each year the Vernon County Forester plans for the annual harvest goals and designates stands due for harvest based on age, vigor, health, and stocking (competition level). The trees to be harvested are marked with paint, their volumes estimated, and the total sale estimation is tallied up at the end of each marking day. A contract is developed to protect the county’s interest as well as lay out restrictions on time of entry, access roads, harvest specifications, and locations of skid trails / landings. The sale is then advertised through the local newspaper and a registered list of timber buyers. The winning bidder will pay for the timber prior to cutting in one “lump-sum” payment or a “scale” system can be developed to pay for the products as they are trucked out. As the harvest is ongoing, the Vernon County Forester periodically checks on the sale to ensure contract compliance, evaluate progress, and to tally cut forest products. Upon completion of the harvesting operations, skid trails and landing are shaped and seeded with a logging road seed mix to prevent soil erosion.
Timber sales are not the only practices implemented at Vernon County Forest properties. Every year thousands of tree seedlings are planted at County Forest properties. The seedlings will eventually provide wildlife habitat and timber products. Trees can be planted by hand on steeper, less accessible terrain or can be planted on flat, gentle terrain using a tree planting machine. All trees planted require some follow-up release or maintenance treatments to ensure health and room to grow. Since 1999, the Vernon County has planted over 23,000 seedlings on its County Forest properties. Another forest management practice used in the Vernon County Forest is timber stand improvement (TSI). This practice focuses on eliminating trees that cannot be utilized commercially, whose removal will be benefit a more desirable and higher value tree. An example of this is removing a small diameter elm or ironwood tree that is competing with a red oak, thereby allowing more sunlight, water, growing space, and nutrients for the red oak tree’s future growth. TSI also includes pruning existing trees to improve form or wood quality.
Some areas within the Vernon County Forest are omitted from the timber management scheduling because of their value as a natural community or habitat for endangered / threatened species. One example of that are scattered “goat” prairies, typically found on steep and rocky south-facing slopes. While growing conditions typically render tree quality on these sites very poor, they can be overrun with undesirable tree species such as elm, red cedar, birch, and aspen. Cutting these trees and implementing periodic prescribed burns into a “goat” prairie, allows the native prairie to flourish while slowing the invading forest.
For more information on the Vernon County Forest, please contact Vernon County Forester, Nick Gilman at (608) 637-5476.