Value-Added Forestry Through a Cooperative
WORK ACTIVITIES NOVEMBER 2004 – JUNE 2006
Prairie’s Edge SARE proposal included three goals towards balancing ecological and environmental concerns in the management of timber and creation of a system that rewards non-industrial woodland owners who manage their timber sustainably. The goals are listed and activities towards each goal are detailed below.
• Conduct inventories of members’ timberland to determine in detail the amount and quality of timber resources;
• Determine on a case-by-case basis the management services each member needs to maximize the ecological health and market value of their timber and to concurrently update each member’s management plan; and
• Move towards forest stewardship certification to differentiate Prairie’s Edge timber products in the marketplace as certified sustainable.
Inventories: The inventory process started with newsletter articles explaining and promoting inventories to the membership. A mailing to all members followed asking a) interest in inventory of their woods and b) willingness to volunteer to help with the inventories. Follow-up phone calls were made and lists of each were created. Volunteers were then trained to conduct an inventory.
Over the fall and winter, landowners on the list were called to explain fully what we would do, what we needed from them, and asked what date they would be available for the on site survey. Member volunteers were contacted to find a team that could help and to arrange carpooling when appropriate.
Determination of Needed Management Services: On inventory days, we would meet with the landowner to look at the maps of their land. Using the maps and landowner input, a plan was developed for the survey process. The landowner was given a survey sheet (attached) concerning their needs, the importance of up to date forestry plans was discussed, and any questions answered.
On all but one survey, the landowner joined a crew to help with collecting data and/or give directions. Landowners were always paired with the coordinator or a volunteer able to discuss their specific forestry needs such as invasive species identification, natural regeneration of native species, and so forth. Active management of the property was encouraged. Volunteers were also included in these same discussions.
Raw data was collected on walks through the woods. At the end of survey, all the data was collected from the separate crews and volunteers were given time mileage sheets. Later, the data was entered into a computer program for statistical analysis. Landowners were mailed a copy of the analysis, a letter covering the discussions on management, and a bill for service.
Grant funds also helped support member education and opportunities to learn more about members’ needs and interests. From the start of this grant through Spring 2006, PESWC has organized five field days. A variety of topics were selected according to member interest and available expertise (See question 4 ‘Sharing Information’).
Certification: Initially, the PESWC board believed that FSC certification would best meet its members’ needs. Through presentations on the FSC process and subsequent discussions with representatives the full cost of the process was fully discovered. It was determined that the expense of FSC would be prohibitive for many PEWSC member. Individual and group certifications options were explored. At two general meetings, presentations were given on Tree Farm certification. The board discussed the costs / benefits of certification methods, determined that Tree Farm was more appropriate to its members, and voted to proceed with that method.
Inventories have been completed at a slower rate than anticipated in the original grant proposal. The seasonal nature of the process was not anticipated. We have learned that it is easier and more cost effective to carry out inventories in the dormant season. Also, that scheduling is done best using a seven day weather forecast. Field days need to be planned for times of the year when people can enjoy being outside.
A revised timeline for inventory completion has been reviewed with SARE representatives. To date 15 of the 40 inventories have been completed. The remaining 25 will be completed by the end of the grant period (request to extend to March 2008 pending).
Landowners are interested in managing their timber wisely. Some are able and willing to do their own, but many, including those that do their own or hire forestry contractors, would do more with the financial help of cost-share funds. We are always confronted with the need for cost share monies. Given lack of public cost share, PESWC may be able to assist members with timbers sales which will generate revenue that can be used for completing appropriate management practices.
Through the activities supported by this grant, we have found that many of our woodlands have been degraded by past management decisions by previous owners. Most landowners have some stands that are too young to survey for harvestable stock. The good news is that these young stands can gain the most from active management. For example, some stands could use a harvest of mostly lower value trees and lower volume than is typical of standard stumpage sales. Thus we have identified a need for a means to improve our woods that can be supported by providing a group marketing system.
WORK PLAN FOR 2007
We plan to continue conducting inventories, building upon what has been learned thus far. We will try to always have the landowner actively involved. Walking the woods with them is a great educational opportunity and allows us to promote our services. We will try scheduling on Sundays if it will help to get more people involved. We also will review the landowner interview sheet and amend it if needed.
The most significant development over the course of this grant period is that we have determined the need to hire a forester. A forester dedicated to sustainable practices will help PESWC move beyond the limited services which can be offered through a volunteer board and part-time coordinator. Initially part time, the forester would interview landowners to determine their forestry needs and to help them activate and complete their management plans. The information gathered through inventories will help the forester determine which landowners could improve their stands through a timber harvest. The forester will manage timber sales and try new ways to market the smaller amounts of trees as discussed earlier. Grouping nearby landholdings together for larger volume is one of the planned methods. Board members are developing both a job description and contract for this position.
Prairie’s Edge has shared information on sustainable forestry with members and non- and potential members in a variety of ways, including:
• Newspaper Articles – Articles about PESWC and announcements of field days have appeared in local newspapers including the Decorah Newspapers, the Postville Herald, the Oneota Coop ‘Scoop’, and the Midwest Woodland and Prairie’s magazine.
• Coop Newsletter – PESWC newsletters are sent 6 times annually and are distributed electronically and via regular mail. Each issue includes educational articles and announcements of upcoming events,
• One-on-one meetings – held at inventory sessions as well as individually by Jack Knight and Rob Bolson. Private “woods walks” have also been provided as customized information sharing opportunities.
• Involvement with other organizations – PESWC was one of the three original organizations to join the Sustainable Woods Network, which offers web-based marketing of member’s wood products. Board officers and the coordinator have participated in regional meetings, including the Northeast Iowa Forest Advisory Committee, Midwest Coop Collaborative, Tri-State Forestry Meeting in Sinsinowa, and a character wood marketing effort at a trade show and through other organizations.
• Annual meetings and Educational Sessions:
DATE, TOPIC, ATTENDANCE
March 2005, Annual Meeting – Explanation of Inventories, presentation of Kickapoo Model, 19
April 2005, Field Day – Wildflower ecology, old growth timber, 12
April 2005, PESWC represented at Earth Day Fair in Decorah. Information and outreach provided.,
June 2005, Field Day – Active management through crop tree release, Direct Seeding, 10
August 2005, Field Day – Active management on young stands, thinning, deer damage control, regeneration, 12
December 2005, Field Day – Pre-harvest planning: planning for the next stand of trees, 10
February 2006, Annual Meeting – Tree Farm Certification, Web marketing through Sustainable Woods Network, 24
April 2006, Post-harvest: how to manage a harvest, logging processes, regeneration, utilization of low value trees not included in sale, 26
With the hiring of a forester, we will include information about our increased capacity to support members. Assistance with completion of recommended work from management plans will be advertised through newsletter articles, meetings for inventories, and field days.