By Bob Zientara
A revenue-generating asset.
A prime recreation area.
A source for silent sports, outdoor scenery, and solitude.
Barron County’s more than 16,000 acres of county forest lands provide these and other benefits to the public, according to a report delivered at the Feb. 21, 2023, meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
The annual county forest plan was prepared and submitted to the supervisors by County Forester John Cisek and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Forester Janette Cain.
Timber, storms and disease
The plan notes that seven contracts have been signed to harvest timber on county forest lands this year, generating income that will ultimately flow into the treasuries of Barron County and the townships in which logging takes place.
Cisek said the loggers who have signed their contracts can choose when to harvest timber, but that most sales take place when ground conditions are favorable, including when the ground is dry and/or frozen. There are also restrictions where the county has found oak wilt (see infographic).
“I don’t anticipate any sales starting until later this summer / fall,” Cisek said in a Thursday, March 9 email.
Past natural disasters continue to play a role in overall county forest strategies, according to the report.
• May 17, 2017 – a tornado skipped across Barron County, causing at least one fatality and devastating hundreds of acres of publicly and privately owned forests. The 2023 plan said that oak wilt has been found in the “tornado alley.”
• July 19, 2019 – straight-line winds estimated at near 100 mph cut a huge swath across portions of southern and southwestern Barron County, including county and private forests. Known as a derecho (a Spanish term pronounced Day-RAY-cho), the storm knocked out power for days and required many weeks of cleanup.
About 25 acres of county forest sustained damage in the July 19 storm, especially in the Silver Creek forest (towns of Vance Creek and Prairie Farm) and the Owen Anderson Rifle Range near Arland.
According to Cisek, two grants are helping to replace the damaged timber. A $3,000 Sustainable Forestry Grant comes from the DNR, and the Arbor Day Foundation is providing an additional $12,052 in grant money.
The plan notes that county forests have not experienced major disease outbreaks or insect infestations, but that personnel will keep watch for further oak wilt and the invasion of two insect pests, including emerald ash borers (see infographic) and spongy (gypsy) moths.
While the report said that forest fires are not currently seen as a danger, the DNR stands ready to provide fire suppression where and when it’s needed, except on the Silver Creek and Hay River forests (in central and southwestern Barron County).
Cain said that the DNR works with local fire departments in areas where it doesn’t take prime responsibility for fire protection. Community-based firefighting units closest to the Silver Creek and Hay River forests include the Almena Area, Prairie Farm-Sheridan, Barron-Maple Grove, Turtle Lake and Clayton fire departments.
A complete copy of the forest plan may be found online at www.barroncountywi.gov.
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