Stewards learn to ‘talk trees’

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“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how.

“To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a good shovel.”

– Aldo Leopold

A Sand County Almanac


SALEM, Ohio – More than 330,000 Ohioans own woodland, but not all of them know what’s best for that land.

That’s where the Ohio Woodland Stewards Program comes into play.

The program is designed to help woodland owners learn the “ins and outs of owning, caring for and managing forest land,” said Kathy Smith, program coordinator with Ohio State University.

In the past year, specialists with the program presented 13 forestry courses and are gearing up for another year of classes.

Skilled with trees. Although the courses are geared toward beginners, there’s also plenty for veterans to learn.

Such was the case for Dick Potts of Holmes County, Ohio, who learned about forestry from his father many years ago. Although Potts was already an adept forester, he took several classes last year and plans on taking more this year.

There’s always something new to learn, he said.

Beginners. Potts said some participants are novices who had the land given to them by family and now want to know what to do with it.

Others want to know how to turn their cropland into a forest.

The classes do this, Potts said, by taking participants step by step through how nature would naturally turn a field into a forest over time – from grass, to weeds, to shrubs, to saplings, to trees, to timber trees.

A main focus of the courses is teaching participants how to speed up nature’s processes.

Wildlife survival. “It’s about getting the best trees in the least amount of time without destroying wildlife,” said Bernadette Cindric, another class participant and avid woodland enthusiast.

Cindric owns forest land in Medina and Coshocton counties.

“Many classes also take into consideration wildlife in the forest so you aren’t overwhelming it,” Cindric said.

Different levels of growth are needed to balance the ecosystem. The classes explain how much clear-cut land, grassland and large trees are needed for animal survival and why each is essential.

One of the courses she recommends deals with how to write timber contracts so that “your land isn’t ruined and someone else has all the money from the trees you grew.”

Economics, inventory. Potts recommends courses on the economics of forest land – the costs involved and the potential income.

There are also courses dealing with tree identification and how to inventory the trees.

The tree inventory class teaches how to determine the number of trees without counting each one. It also teaches how to measure the trees in diameter and height and how to put them into size classes.

This knowledge helps foresters determine the financial value of their trees, Potts said.

Making out. What stands to benefit is a big, leafy chunk of the Buckeye state.

According to state’s forestry division, more than 30 percent of Ohio is forested, and 94 percent of that portion, or about 2.5 million acres, is privately owned.

“Sometimes [woodland owners] need to understand that even a hands-off approach – letting nature take its course – has an impact on the woods and is therefore also a management decision,” Smith said.

Details. Ohio Woodland Stewards Program is a joint effort of the Ohio Division of Forestry and Ohio State University Extension.

Classes typically have indoor and outdoor segments.

Costs range from $25 for a one-day program to $70 for the three-day woodland owners workshop.

For more information about the courses, dates and locations, visit http://woodlandstewards.osu.edu/ or call 614-688-3421.

(You can contact Kristy Hebert at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

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