District-sponsored courses aim to develop forest stewards

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By Mike Beacom

A pair of conservation districts are helping landowners become forest stewards in their free time.


The King Conservation District is promoting an online, seven-week forest stewardship course this winter, put on by Washington State University Extension. The Forest Stewardship Coached Planning course costs $185 and meets for three hours every Tuesday evening. Topics covered include:

  • How do you know if your trees are healthy? What should you do if they aren’t?
  • What types of trees do you have? Does your forest look like a “mess”?
  • Are characteristics of your property attracting or repelling the wildlife you enjoy? What can you do if wildlife cause damage?
  • When should you worry about trees being hazards?
  • How do you know if your trees need to be thinned, and how do you go about it?
  • Are invasive and noxious weeds taking over your underbrush? What are the risks and what can you do about it?
  • What kind of soil do you have and how does it affect what grows?
  • What is the risk of wildfire on your property?

Students receive a copy of the book “Native Trees of Western Washington,” a tree measuring tool, and a consultation site visit to their property from a state service forester.


Three years ago, the LaGrange County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) began hosting an annual forestry field day on a 38-acre parcel it acquired in 1993. The property was once a Christmas tree farm and now serves as a learning center for area youth and landowners.

Steve Engleking and Lenny Farlee from Purdue University were regular field day speakers and last year suggested the district and Purdue Extension co-host a forest stewardship program. The course, entitled “Forest Management for the Private Woodland Owner,” is designed to give area landowners the tools they need to meet their land objectives.

LaGrange County SWCD District Manager Martin Franke said the program will cater to all three types of landowners: those who view their forest land as an economic asset, those who own forest land for recreational purposes and wish to create good habitat, and those who have made their land a preserve or wildlife refuge, requiring little or no human activity. “It is our hope that our forestry program assists all three types of landowners with information that helps them achieve their respective goals,” Franke told NACD.

One problem all northeastern Indiana forest landowners must deal with is invasive species. According to Franke, emerald ash borer has decimated almost all of the county’s blue, white, black, and green ash trees, impacting the local forestry economy and wildlife habitat. Other invasive species of concern include garlic mustard, Asian bush honeysuckle, Russian autumn olive, multiflora rose, and purple loosestrife.

“Eliminating, or at least controlling, these and other invasive species is essential to maintaining healthy and productive forest growth in our part of the world,” Franke said.

Part of the program is stressing the idea that a healthy forest takes work. “Some believe a forest requires little or no effort on the part of the landowner; that a woods will more or less manage itself,” said Franke. “This idea is born out of ignorance or laziness.”

“Many people are amazed to learn that if you truly love and care for your forest, you will probably employ a chainsaw, pruners, or herbicides as much or more than you do a tree planting dibble.”

To read more feature stories from Forestry Notes, follow Mike Beacom, NACD’s forestry specialist, here on NACD’s blog or subscribe to Forestry Notes by clicking here.

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