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Group Opening Outcomes, Sustainable Forest Management, and the Menominee Nation Lands

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Ideally, variants of single-tree, group, and patch selection create new, spatially aggregated age classes and maintain a diversity of tree species and sizes in multiaged, mixed-species forests. We explored this notion in northern hardwood forests on the Menominee Nation, a forest ecosystem without the exploitive cutting history of most forests in the western Great Lakes region. Although the outcomes suggested a lack of relationship between gap characteristics and tree density, the expectations for tree regeneration were largely met: gap tree densities were >600 stems/ac and predominantly composed of sugar maple (Acer saccharum), American elm (Ulmus americana), and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). Examination of stand diameter distributions indicate that gaps may not be necessary to establish regeneration on Menominee forests. To deepen the interpretation of our results, we include field and office discussions regarding the practicality of group openings when managing this forest.

Management and Policy Implications In the western Great Lakes region, group openings, simply known as “gaps” in the region, have been an integral part of northern hardwood management for nearly 30 years; however, recent regional findings show regeneration failures in gaps. This article showcases a real-world experience by practitioners to address these recent science findings with a practical approach that included (1) answering their own specific management questions about gaps, (2) using their own lands, (3) using their staff, and (4) integrating with work they are already doing. Overall, we found that tree regeneration in gaps was sufficient, and gaps may not be necessary to establish regeneration in Menominee forests. These results are contrary to recent regional findings and probably are explained by the uneven-aged and species-rich characteristics of the Menominee forests that are largely absent in forests of the larger region. The method and its interpretation was enriched and clarified (including its limitations) over time by the company growing a disciplinary, generational, and cultural rich collaboration. We believe this learning process of data collection, interpretation, and social capital is valuable to share and highlights a process and discussion for managers to evaluate the efficacy of gaps at other sites.
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