Leelanau Conservancy: Palmer Woods Forest Reserve


The Leelanau Conservancy is a non-profit land trust operating in the Leelanau Peninsula in northwestern lower Michigan. They focus on protecting forests, farms, lakeshores, and riparian areas through conservation easements and a portfolio of established natural areas and working forest preserves. For this project, Conservancy staff focused on climate change impacts and adaptation options for a recently-acquired forest preserve.

Conservancy staff completed the Adaptation Workbook at a NIACS Forest Adaptation Planning and Practices training in 2016, and adaptation actions are being incorporated into the property's management plan.

Project Area

The Palmer Woods Forest Reserve encompasses 707 acres of contiguous northern hardwood forest. It is located just over a mile from Big Glen Lake and adjacent to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This property was acquired recently by the Conservancy and will be managed as a working forest, but will also be open to the public for hiking, skiing, and other forms of recreation throughout the year.

Management Goals

Forest road with hemlock at Palmer Woods.

The management goal for the Palmer Woods Forest Preserve is to promote diverse, productive, and resilient forest communities. Specific management objectives for the property include: 

  • conducting a moderate timber harvest designed to capture trees expected to die in the near-term (salvaging all ash and beech in particular)
  • use group selection or canopy gaps to promote regeneration of red oak, black cherry, basswood, and yellow birch
  • control thick beech sapling stands to allow for more desirable tree species
  • retain all hemlock on the property
  • monitor oak for oak wilt and remove affected trees if found

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


Climate change may make diseases such as oak wilt and beech bark disease more damaging
Deer browse may become even more of a problem with milder winters


Stands of dead ash and beech will be valuable wildlife habitat, particularly in ares of lower visitor use.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Northern hardwoods
2.3. Manage herbivory to promote regeneration of desired species.
Apply for additional deer tags from the DNR - DMAP program
Install deer exclosures in test areas to allow for regeneration
Leave tops and limbs after harvest to discourage deer browse
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Variable thinning, including group selection and canopy gaps.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Discuss with consulting forester to choose native species expected to do well in the future


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including monitoring deer browse across the property with vegetation plots. Also, deer exclosures will be monitored with photo points inside and outside the exclosures.

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

Next Steps

This summary will be updated as management actions are refined through discussions with a consulting forester and Conservancy staff. The Conservancy is in the process of installing two deer exclosures in fall 2016.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen or learn more at: http://leelanauconservancy.org/blog/naturalarea/palmer-woods-forest-reserve/


Upland hardwoods, Assisted migration, Planting

Last Updated

Tuesday, October 25, 2016