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Re: E-M:/ The Ludington School Forest in Peril


I was saddened to here of your forest dilemma.  Most likely the school is looking into "harvesting" some or all of the trees in the forest to raise revenue given the financial  constraints you mention.  Increasingly, foresters are telling land owners that forests need to be routinely thinned to remain healthy.  That, coupled with the fact that second growth hardwood trees can bring in as much $800 - $1,000 per tree, will continue to put enormous pressure on land owners to sell all or part of their forest trees for "harvesting".

Of course the notion that a forest must routinely be thinned to remain healthy is a total fabrication perpetrated by foresters looking to make a quick buck.  Thinning a good hardwood forest can be quite beneficial to a number of species, unfortunately those would be the species whose numbers we are typically trying to reduce, i.e. deer, raccoon, skunk, and coyote to name a few.  To be sure, occasional thinning of a forested area, if done carefully and properly, can, and I emphasize can, be a good thing.  But a necessity it is not.

I suspect that the decision to cut the trees could be reversed if the people in the community could rally around saving the forest at the cost of raising property taxes a few mills.  Perhaps the taxpayers and the school district could enter into a contract that would give the citizens a conservation easement covering the entire 100 acres in exchange for a small tax increase.  This would certainly be a novel approach, but is perhaps worth investigating.  I would start with The Nature Conservancy, a good local lawyer willing to advise for free, and a personal appeal to the school superintendent.

Good luck and please keep us all posted.

Michael Boyce
Baker Sanctuary Resident Manager
Michigan Audubon Society