Pine Plantation Conversion

Pine Plantation Conversion 2017-04-17T16:54:44+00:00

Plantation (Stand 1)

Management Goals

Property-wide goals:

  •  Improve forest health, resilience and long-term productivity
  •  Support community and educational events
  •  Provide a sustainable yield of high-quality forest products

Specific plantation goals:

  •  Aesthetics, access, and health of trees in ropes course area
  •  Transition plantation to uneven-aged, mixed species hardwood forest


Located in the Clyde River valley, this stand has a long history of use by human inhabitants. Beginning in 1828, the Lang family established a homestead, cultivated one of the most successful farms in Charleston, and built a 100-foot diameter round barn (very similar in construction to the still-standing Robillard barn in Irasburg). 

Although the property left the Lang family in 1909 and the round barn burned in 1918, the land continued to be farmed off and on was acquired in 1920 by Will Gardner who successfully worked the land for timber and crops through the Great Depression. Between 1959 and 1961 Will (then in his mid-70s) had most of his fields planted in red pine, white pine, and Norway spruce that we see today. 

In 1984 Bill Manning and Pat Moyer, founders of what is now the NorthWoods Stewardship Center purchased the property and began to develop the site for educational programming, building a ropes course and log cabin within the plantation. In 1999 several permanent forest inventory plots were installed as part of NorthWoods’ Ecosystem Management Project and more plots were added and surveyed in 2005. 

Due to the stand’s unique character and proximity to the Center, bird surveys and small mammal surveys were initiated between 1998 and 2007, and the ropes course is frequently visited by school groups and adults in search of local adventure!

Lang Homestead

Group Selection Harvest

Although this is currently a pine forest, natural processes are at work to convert this “artificial” forest back to site-appropriate mixed hardwood species. Evidence of this comes in many forms, one being advanced regeneration– young trees that have started to grow underneath the forest canopy. Patches of hardwood regeneration have begun to appear in the pine plantation, and a group selection (or patch cut) is an effective way of helping these young trees toward a prosperous future. Here, we removed approximately 0.2 acres of overstory pines, providing light and space for the new generation of maples, black cherry, and other hardwoods. Here is the view of the group selection just after it was harvested in 2007. Take a walk through this area on the Gardner Path and you’ll see how much it’s changed in just a few years!

Overstory Thinning

pineplantationb4As trees grow in a forest, they begin by being small and close together. As they grow, each tree becomes larger and they forest becomes crowded. In even-aged stands (where all trees are the same age and similar in size), it can become so crowded that none of the trees can get enough light to keep growing… and then it’s time to thin! 

A high-quality thinning will increase growing space (physical space to expand, as well as light and water) for trees that are vigorous and free of defects. Trees that are diseased, dying or have defects (rot, broken tops, and so on) are removed. By increasing the growth of healthy, valuable trees, the forest stand as a whole becomes more healthplantationaftery and valuable in the future.  

Economic value isn’t the only reason to thin a pine plantation. As the photos below show, this operation increased the amount of woody debris (branches and logs on the ground)- an important habitat feature for small mammals, insects, and some birds. Increased light in the forest understory will also promote the growth of shrubs and herbaceous plants, creating diversity in the forest structure (spatial arrangement of plants and features). Plantations start out as unnaturally uniform forests; careful forestry can help to turn it back into a natural, diverse forest ecosystem!

Pre-Treatment – 2006

Basal Area: 190 ft²/acre

Acceptable Growing Stock (AGS): 63%

Coarse Woody Debris:  < 100 ft³/acre

Small Mammals Observed: Red Squirrel, Deer Mouse


Basal Area: 133 ft²/ac

Acceptable Growing Stock (AGS): 90%

Coarse Woody Debris: 464 ft³/acre

Small Mammals Observed: Red Squirrel, Deer Mouse, Short-tailed Shrew, Masked Shrew, Meadow Vole, Red-backed Vole, Southern Bog Lemming