Watkeys Family: Laughing Whitefish Family Camp


Matt completed the Adaptation Workbook at a NIACS workshop in the summer of 2015, and he has already implemented a timber harvest and several of the tree planting activities he designed at the workshop. 

Matt Watkeys, a forester for the Marquette Conservation District, completed the Adaptation Workbook for his own family camp.

Project Area

Matt and his family purchased a 20-acre camp next to the Laughing Whitefish River in 2015. Their property includes a 12-acre stand of northern hardwoods as well as areas of lowland and upland conifers and a riparian area. The Laughing Whitefish River flows through Marquette and Alger Counties before emptying into Lake Superior. Matt's property connects three large parcels of land managed by Hancock Natural Resources Group (formerly owned by The Forestland Group).

Management Goals

Matt taps several maple trees for syrup production on his property.

Matt has several goals for his property, including: 

  • managing the hardwoods stand for sugarbush as well as promoting sun-loving species with gap silviculture
  • managing lowland conifer stands for thermal cover for wildlife, and also creating openings for conifer regeneration
  • increasing openings, snags, and den trees in the upland conifer stands

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Warmer, drier summers could lead to stress for species like sugar maple and could make regeneration more challenging.
Heavy precipitation events and earlier snowmelt could lead to more bank erosion in Matt's riparian area.
Climate change could increase risks from forest pests and diseases like hemlock wooly adelgid, beech bark disease, Asian longhorn beetle, and oak wilt.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing Mat''s management objectives, including:


Early spring thaws combined with late frosts could be harmful for southern tree species and mast-producing trees.
Reduced soil moisture and warmer temps could be stressful for northern hardwoods stands


More stress on sugar maple could actually help diversify northern hardwood stands and allow other species to thrive
Longer growing seasons and warmer temperatures could increase suitable habitat for southern tree species

Adaptation Actions

Matt used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for his property, including:

Northern Hardwoods
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Thinning northern hardwoods stands west of the river to 80-120 BA, favoring red maple and large sugar maple for sugarbush.
Retain a higher proportion of red maple during this thinning, as red maple is a species expected to do well under climate change
4.1. Prioritize and maintain unique sites.
5.4. Establish reserves to maintain ecosystem diversity.
7.2. Maintain and create habitat corridors through reforestation or restoration.
Retain riparian corridors as no-management reserves.
9.5. Disfavor species that are distinctly maladapted.
Patch clearcut within conifer stands to remove some spruce and fir in gaps.
9.2. Establish or encourage new mixes of native species.
9.4. Protect future-adapted seedlings and saplings.
Plant seedlings from a range of southern-adapted mast-producing tree species: red oak, apple trees, cherry trees, red osier dogwood
Plant seedlings from southern-adapted hardwoods: black walnut, silver maple, hazelnut, sumac, silky dogwood, and ninebark.
Use browse protection for planted seedlings (tree tubes and fencing).


Matt identified several monitoring items that could help inform his family's future management, including:
Regeneration surveys in harvest areas
Photo monitoring to capture visual changes in the forest over time
Growth and survival of planted seedlings, particular southern-adapted tree species

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

An oak seedling protected with a plastic mesh tube on Matt's property.
Matt Watkey's property (red outline) connects large parcels of forest land owned by Hancock Natural Resources Group (formerly owned by The Forestland Group, yellow outline).

Next Steps

Matt completed the Adaptation Workbook at a NIACS workshop in the summer of 2015, and he has already implemented a timber harvest and several of the tree planting activities he designed at the workshop. Matt intends to continue tree planting over the next few field seasons. Matt also intends to remove beech individuals infested with beech bark disease for use as firewood.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen


Flooding, Upland conifers, Upland hardwoods, Assisted migration, Planting, Water resources

Last Updated

Tuesday, November 15, 2016