By Mike Beacom
The Iosco Conservation District (ICD) is proving a little forestland can have a large impact on the surrounding community. The Michigan district owns a 78-acre parcel that has become an attraction for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. For ICD Forester Eric Brandon, it’s an effective tool to build relationships with private landowners in need of technical assistance.
When Leonard Ingalls died in 1991, he empowered his three good friends to decide what to do with the parcel. Two years later it was gifted to the conservation district on the condition it be used for public education and outreach. Iosco Conservation District has kept its end of the bargain.
Iosco Conservation District hosts quarterly tours to engage local residents. Most tours draw more than 20 people, some as many as 60. The tours have different themes – mushroom hunt, snowshoe hike, tree identification – and provide locals an opportunity to see an actively-managed forest up close. The land is comprised mostly of aspen, oak, and white pine. The district has done three harvests since taking ownership. “When we take landowners through the forest we can show them, ‘Here’s what an aspen stand looks like 20 years after a clearcut, or 12 years…,” said Brandon. “And a lot of people are interested in learning more about oak regeneration.”
Ingalls Forest is part of the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and this summer was part of the Michigan Forestry Association’s tour of ATFS demonstration sites.
Brandon said the tours often lead to site visit requests where he is able to help local landowners. “That’s my mission for the district, that one-on-one visit in the woods with the landowner so I can offer technical support to manage their land.”
This year, Iosco Conservation District was approached by an organization that provides support for at-risk teens. The organization worked with the conservation district and local civic groups to build a set of eight obstacles to use for an adventure obstacles course. The outdoor experience promotes team building and confidence.
The public is able to use the forest for recreation by obtaining a permit online. ICD hopes to finish construction of a pavilion on the property sometime later this fall.
This summer, the forestland was verified through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) under the forest, wetlands, and habitat (FWH) system. The program assists conservation districts in their efforts to help Michigan citizens better understand, plan, manage, protect, and utilize their forest resources.
“It was a nice honor,” said Brandon. “It was another way for us to demonstrate to the public that we are doing great things on this land that benefit the public.”
To learn more about Ingalls Forest, visit http://www.ioscoconservation.org/ingalls-forest.html.