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May 26, 2018

9/8/2017 7:26:00 AM
Managing woodland?
This program can help
Courtesy/WI Coverts Project

Conference attendees gather around a campfire for a lesson on woodland management.
Courtesy/WI Coverts Project

Conference attendees gather around a campfire for a lesson on woodland management.
Who owns the land?
According to a 2014 report from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, private families and other entities own more than half of the state's 17 million acres of forested land.

Evan J. Pretzer
Lakeland Times reporter

Every year in August, they come to the Kemp Natural Resources Station in Woodruff.

From Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and other states in the midwest, private forest owners are taught how to better manage land by the Wisconsin Coverts Project.

The program began in the 1980s in Connecticut and has since spread to 14 of the nation's 50 states.

Land owners who apply and are selected to attend events at the Wisconsin chapter spend three days learning how to deal with different woodland-related issues. Past programs have taught lessons on how to manage wolves, harvest timber and get a handle on various invasive species types.

According to program instructor and University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Scott Bowe, most of those who attend aren't motivated by commercial opportunities.

"Usually economics is lower down on their list of goals," he said. "A lot of times they manage their land for recreation ... some like to hunt or other things like that. But economics can help them achieve some of these things."

With costs covered by the program sponsors, those who attend agree to become covert cooperators afterwards. This means, in exchange for the lessons, they agree to share their new knowledge with others.

Since the early 1990s, more than 600 people have became covert cooperators in the Badger State. Minocqua resident Marc Marszalek is one of them.

In an interview with The Lakeland Times on Aug. 30, he offered high praise for the series of lessons.

"I've been through a lot of classes having been in the military, but they put out a lot of information pretty darn quick," he said. "They don't waste your time."

According to data from his session, this brisk pace and generous amount of information is seriously needed. Of those who attended the Aug. 3 to 6 meeting, just 25 percent had enough skill to implement management activities on their land.

This lack of knowledge, in combination with the amount of state land in private hands, also serves as a strong environmental justification of the program, Bowe says.

"A lot of people have this impression that forests just stay the same but they don't," he said. "They change. And being able to manage a forest properly helps change things for the better in many ways concerning forest health and other issues. Without a doubt, programs like this help."

Those who are interested in learning more about the Wisconsin Coverts project can call Jamie Nack at 608-265-8264.

Evan J. Pretzer may be reached via email at evan@lakelandtimes.com.

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