Menominee Tribal Enterprises: Responding to Oak Wilt on the Menominee Forest

Yes
Action

Sites affected by oak wilt are being reforested using a diverse mix of future-adapted species. Planting is underway, including tree species and understory species.  

Expansive forests of large maple, oak, and birch trees are prized across the Northwoods for many reasons, including their beauty, their diversity, and their ability to provide valuable wood. Unfortunately, forests pests and disease pose increasingly large threats for these and other forests in the region. On the Menominee Indian Reservation in northern Wisconsin, foresters are working to respond to oak wilt and other threats, while also creating forests that will be better adapted to future conditions.

Project Area

Menominee Tribal Enterprises (MTE) manages 235,000 acres of forest land for the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. For more than 150 years, the Menominee have pioneered forestry practices that have preserved an ecosystem with numerous species and varied habitats. The Menominee have harvested a half billion board feet of lumber since the mid 1800s — yet, today, they have more standing timber than 150 years ago.

Management Goals

An oak wilt pocket on the Menominee Forest after treatment.

MTE forest management has historically focused on maintaining a diversity of species and habitats for cultural and environmental values, while also maximizing the sustainable production of forest products.  These lands are often help up as a model of forests stewardship because of the long history sustainable and pioneering forest management. MTE is currently responding to oak wilt across the Menominee Forest. Oak wilt, a non-native fungus, kills red oak trees by plugging up the cells that move water within the tree and is spread through tree roots or by sap-feeding beetles. Over 300 pockets of forest affected by oak wilt have been found and treated so far on Menominee lands. Treatment typically involves removing any affected or potentially affected oak trees, including the tree stumps to avoid transmission of the fungus through roots. Following treatment, the oak wilt sites are heavily distrubed, with few trees left on site and disrupted forest floor.  The typical management approach is to allow natural regeneration to restore these pockets over time. 

Climate Change Impacts

Climate change will likely result in many changes in forests across the region. Additionally, a changing climate may have important and substantial effects on the culture of the Menominee Tribe. MTE is currently concerned with many forest health issues, including pests, diseases, and invasive species, which can reduce forest productivity and function. These issues will likely be made worse when they are combined with the effects of a changing climate. For example, warmer temperatures may increase the voracity of insect pests. Increased drought can stress trees and plants, making them more susceptible to insects, diseases, or other declines, as well as at greater risk of being out-competed by invasive plant species.

Adaptation Actions

Foresters from MTE have used Forest Adaptation Resources: Climate Change Tools and Approaches for Land Managers to identify actions to restore a number of oak wilt treatment sites on the Menominee Reservation.  Although red oak, white pine, and other species will naturally revegetate the sites, MTE decided to pick 10 of the largest and most accessible sites to use as climate adaptation sites. MTE foresters prepared the soil and have begun to plant a variety of climate-adapted tree and plant species on these demonstration sites to help them return to forests more quickly.

The tree species being used for the reforestation efforts are expected to be better adapted to future conditions. The plantings also help to increase forest diversty, reduce the risks of any one species being negatively impacted by climate or forest health issues, and provide for high-quality forest products in the future. Tree species selected for planting include: white oak, bur oak, black cherry, , black walnut, chinkapin oak, hackberry, and disesase-resistant American elm. Additionally, understory grasses, herbs, and shrubs are also being planted on these sites to establish entire plant communities.

Monitoring

Monitoring of these sites will help determine whether this "climate-informed" reforestation strategy compares favorably to normal natural regeneration in oak wilt sites. Some of the items being monitored includes:
Growth and survival of planted seedlings
Cost of the treatments
Forest composition in the oak wilt pockets over time

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

MTE staff planting tree seedlings in an oak wilt pocket.
MTE staff surveying an oak wilt site after site treatment.
MTE staff planting tree seedlings in an oak wilt pocket.

Project Documents

Project Videos

Responding to Oak Wilt on the Menominee Forest

Next Steps

MTE foresters identified ten oak wilt sites to serve as adaptation demonstration areas. These sites tend to be large or in areas of high visibility, making them good candidates for restoration and education. Sites were prepared for planting using a roller chopper in summer 2013. Trees were planted starting in 2013 using readily available white oak and bur oak seedlings grown from locally-collected seed. A larger array of tree, grass, and herb species were sourced for planting during 2014 through 2016. Monitoring of these sites is underway. This demonstration project was featured in the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Forestry.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen

Keywords

Insect pests, Diseases, Oak, Upland hardwoods, Assisted migration, Planting

Last Updated

Friday, November 25, 2016