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Langlade County, Northern Wisconsin
“Accelerated Management” Refreshes an Alder Stand

Peter Ourada and his brother Paul own 80 wooded acres near Antigo in Langlade County. “The property has a 30- to 35-acre swamp grown up with tag alder brush,” Ourada says. “The soil is really wet. I’ve seen grouse in there; they hide out along the edges of the tag alders. I’ve kicked deer out of the swamp in hunting season. I’ve also spotted fishers and woodcock there.”

 

An avid hunter and wildlife enthusiast, Ourada wondered what might be done

to make the land more attractive to wildlife. (The parcel was already enrolled

in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Managed Forest Law

program, which offers a reduced tax rate for productive woodland under a

forest management plan.)

His father, Ken Ourada, is a semi-retired farmer living on the family farm

nearby. “My dad got a mailer about the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership,”

Peter says. “After reading the material, we realized there were things we

could do to help deer, grouse, and other wildlife.” Using the contact

information that WYFP provided, Ourada got in touch with Jeremy Holtz,

a biologist with Wisconsin DNR. Holtz came and walked the property with

him and discussed some options.

“The parcel’s forested land was in good shape, with a recent timber harvest,” says Holtz, “so we concentrated on the alders. The wetland area had everything from old, overmature alders to areas where younger, denser shrubs were growing.” It was clear that the alder stand represented an excellent opportunity to make some thick shrubland habitat. Also, it was important to treat the old alders sooner rather than later, because the older such shrubs get, the weaker and less vigorous they become.

Holtz wrote what he terms “an accelerated management plan. The strategy was to get in there quickly and make some cuts, both to delineate the stand in manageable units and bring back some of the older senescent alder.” Making delineating cuts would be “the first step in getting a cutting rotation going, so that the different blocks can be easily seen, allowing for more-efficient mowing during future entries.”

The management plan calls for mowing every several years until the older alder

has all been cut back and returned to a younger growth stage. Wild creatures

that use such habitat include American woodcock and golden-winged warblers,

two key species on which the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership has focused,

as well as other songbirds like alder flycatchers and game species like ruffed

grouse and white-tailed deer.

Holtz also provided Ourada with contact information and advice that led to

financial help, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and

Wildlife Program contributing funding to do the alder mowing. Things got rolling

in late January 2014. It was cold, with plenty of snow – ideal conditions for undertaking habitat management on wet soils, since machines won’t dig ruts or otherwise damage the frozen ground.

Ken Ourada used his big four-wheel-drive tractors to mat down roadways, allowing access to the site, “and to pull vehicles out of the snow when they got stuck,” Peter Ourada says. The Ruffed Grouse Society was contracted to do the mowing. A volunteer equipment operator used a tracked vehicle with a high-speed mowing head to chew strips through areas of old alder and to mark out the edges of the habitat blocks. After the older, sparser stems were mowed, the shrubs’ underground root systems would respond vigorously the following spring, sending up abundant new sprouts – perfect habitat for wildlife.

“My father really got into it,” Peter Ourada reports. “Dad was down there to watch almost every day while they were working. He was in awe of what that mowing head could do.” Ken Ourada even brought neighbors over to see what was taking place – “Great publicity for the Young Forest Partnership,” Holtz says.

Contacting Landowners

“We’ve been in touch with over 800 landowners in the last three years,” Holtz adds. “We’ve had a lot of interest in improving conditions for wildlife by making young forest and shrubland habitat. Taken together, those 800-plus landowners own about 100,000 acres, so it’s a lot of land, a lot of potential habitat.” He explains how it works: “First, we get people set up with management plans.” The plans are easily followed, allowing folks to be self-sufficient and to carry out future habitat work on their own without requiring more site visits or a lot of further consultation. “That way we can spend our time reaching out to additional landowners,” Holtz says. “It’s like the old saying ‘Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”

 

Peter Ourada, left, holds his daughter Sophia. He and his brother Paul, right, own

and care for the land together.

Initially, around 6 acres of alder were mowed in 2014. The management plan filed for

the property calls for these same acres to be mowed again in 2024. Another 20 acres

will be split in half, with half of each area to be mowed in the winter of 2015/2016

and the other half mowed in 2017/2018. These areas will again be mowed in 2029

and 2034.

The alder management on the Ourada parcel integrates well with a 20-acre timber

harvest conducted around five years ago in an upland portion of the property. In areas

where timber was clearcut, young forest is growing back, used by many of the same wild animals that inhabit the tag alder, as well as additional species. It’s all about diversity, knowing that a diversity of habitats yields a diversity of wildlife.

“In one five-acre section and another three- to four-acre section where the timber harvest took place, the popple is coming back really well,” Ourada reports. “Popple” is a common name for aspen, a commercially valuable hardwood tree. “We plan to continue using timber harvests to make this into a productive woodland where we can conduct other commercial harvests in the future. What we’re doing will help wildlife, and it will help us, too, by creating better hunting conditions along with more opportunities to view wildlife.”

Ourada reports an uptick in the number of grouse since the alder mowing and timber harvests took place, “and I think the local deer population will rebound pretty quickly, too.” He’s happy with how the project turned out and with the help he received through the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership. “I’ve gotten to know Jeremy well” during the course of planning and carrying out the alder management, Ourada says. “I’ve learned a lot from him, and what I’ve learned has helped me become a better landowner and get more enjoyment out of my land.”

Partners

Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, American Bird Conservancy, Ruffed Grouse Society, Wildlife Management Institute

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