• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
The Leelanau Conservancy is a non-profit land trust operating in the Leelanau Peninsula in northwestern lower Michigan. Conservancy staff completed the Adaptation Workbook at a NIACS Adaptation Planning and Practices training in 2016 for a recently acquired forest reserve, and adaptation actions are being incorporated into the property's management.

Project Area

Palmer Woods property boundary (highlighted red pin) and surrounding protected areas
The Palmer Woods Forest Reserve encompasses 721 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 in 2016 by the Conservancy and is managed as a working forest, but is also be open to the public for hiking, biking, 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 areas of lower visitor use.

Adaptation Actions

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

Northern hardwoods
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
Variable thinning, including group selection and canopy gaps.
Conduct timber harvest to select against ash and beech species in particular
Following harvest, treat beech stumps with herbicide to prevent vigorous re-sprouting
Plant a diverse mix of tree species in harvested gaps, including species expected to fare well under climate change (tulip tree, bur oak, shagbark hickory, chinkapin oak, sassafras, and others)


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. Specific monitoring variables related to the deer exclosures will include abundance and growth of spring ephemeral wildflowers, shrubs, and tree seedlings. The attached plan describes the monitoring protocol for the deer exclosures.

Project Documents

Next Steps

The Conservancy has completed a variety of management actions at Palmer Woods since 2016:
- 2016: Installed two large deer exclosures totaling 35 acres.
- 2017: Conducted baseline vegetation monitoring inside and outside deer exclosures. Conducted 183-acre timber harvest to select against ash and beech and treat beech stumps.
- 2018: Planted 1000 tree seedlings in a 10-acre area, including tulip tree, bur oak, and shagbark hickory.
- 2019: Planted 500 tree seedlings in a 5-acre area, including bur oak, chinkapin oak, white oak, bitternut hickory, sassafras, and paper birch.

This page will be updated as work continues and monitoring results become available.


Assisted migration
Upland hardwoods

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