The following letter was received by the council after Bob Petrzelka, Forester for Geode Forestry, Inc. had completed a forestry management study of the three sites operated by the Mississippi Valley Council.
November. 12, 2007
Re: Camp Eastman, Camp Saukenauk, Knapp Property
As you know, I have had the opportunity to survey the forest resources on the above referenced properties over the last couple of months. Specifically, my goals were as follows;
- Assess the overall health and condition of the forests
- Determine if any action is recommended to maintain the health and productivity of the forests
- Identify the physical and sociological challenges that come with any forest activity
Following are my comments;
Camp Eastman ◄248 Total Acres, 124 Timbered Acres►
The forest resources at Eastman are characteristic of a mature forest. The Oak component is, for the most part, on the older side, except on the forest edges where young Oak are still growing and encroaching into the open areas. Oak presents a challenge, one that as foresters we deal with every day. Oak seedlings need as close to full sunlight as they can get in order to grow. Without openings created in the forest floor by fire, wind blowdown, harvest or forest management, the Oak-Hickory forest will eventually become dominated by more shade-tolerant species like Hard Maple, Basswood and Ironwood. Hard Maple and Ironwood have taken a foothold in the forests at Eastman, and now occupy a significant portion of the species composition.
At the south end (south of Owls camp) the Hard Maple is not as bad as the north end (north of dining hall, etc.) This south end could still be managed for Oak if you wanted to control the Hard Maple. There is decent Oak regeneration present as seedlings, but they will only persist for a few more years if they do not get enough sunlight. Throughout both the north and south forest stands the Oak resource is maturing. The Red Oak, which is not as long-lived as White Oak, is generally over-mature, and a number of trees have died recently. From a forestry standpoint, I recommend a thinning harvest, concentrating on the mature/overmature Oaks and any merchantable Hard Maple (to minimize the seed source). In addition to the harvest it would make sense to kill the Hard Maple midstory to allow Oaks to grow up in the understory. Even though the horse is out of the barn, so to speak, in terms of Hard Maple, it is still practical to manage this south end for Oak.
The north end presents more of a challenge as it is more heavily used for the trail system, campsites, fire rings, etc. and there is a much heavier Maple component. There is very little sunlight that reaches the forest floor, and it is almost devoid of any annual or perennial herbaceous growth. This lack of cover also adds another concern of erosion on the steep, north-facing slopes that face Larry Creek.
Even with these challenges, a harvest could also be conducted at the north end, it would just have to depend upon how heavy and where you wanted to harvest, being sensitive to the aesthetics of the area.
There is an almost solid stand of Black Locust on the west side overlooking the river. It is maybe 2-3 acres. Black Locust spreads by root suckering in addition to seed, and can quickly take over an area. Other than providing cover, these Black Locust thickets are devoid of any redeeming qualities. A better cover for this area would be a stand of tallgrass prairie with some Bur Oak located within. This would be recreating what might have been there at the time of settlement as well as providing some diversity in the landscape from the hardwood forest.
Camp Saukenauk ◄602 Total Acres, 450 Timbered Acres►
This was my first visit to Saukenauk, and I was impressed with both the camp facilities and the forest resource on the property.
The forest at Saukenauk is quite different than at Eastman. At Saukenauk the 450 acres of timber is located in larger, contiguous blocks, whereas at Eastman the timber is fragmented and bisected by trails and other human influences. Just by sheer numbers of acres (450 Saukenauk, 124 Eastman) and percentage of timber cover (75% Saukenauk, 50% Eastman), management of the Saukenauk timber has much fewer challenges than at Eastman.
The forest resource here is of exceptionally high quality. Oak-Hickory forest type dominates except for those stands, mostly areas on the flatter hilltops, that have been planted to Pine. It appears that at least some of the areas have been harvested at some point in the past. Primary species are White Oak, Red Oak, Shagbark Hickory, Ironwood, Elm, Black Oak and Basswood, with a few scattered Walnut. The drier ridgetops are heavier to Black Oak. Overall, the timber at Saukenauk is younger than the timber at Eastman, and the shade-tolerant species, while present, are not nearly as prevalent as at Eastman. Although there are variations due to aspect and past history, the timber is rather homogenous throughout, at least in the areas west and south of the lake. There are lots of deer out here, so I recommend continuing the leased hunting program. This will give the desirable tree seedlings a better chance to survive.
My recommendations for Saukenauk are to conduct what is called a commercial thinning on those areas that need it, mainly west and south of the lake. This process, while essentially a timber sale, involves harvesting the lower quality or mature/overmature Oaks to give the higher quality trees, which will be left, more room (sunlight) to grow. I would combine this with some forest management to eliminate any undesirable species in the harvest area.
On those areas that have been harvested in the past, and in other areas where the trees are pre-commercial in size, I also recommend forest management. All stands are overcrowded, and the forest management would involve thinning out the trees that are less desirable because of species, low quality, or vigor. While there would not be any income produced from these areas, doing the management would help keep these stands healthier and more productive.
Knapp Farm ◄588 Total Acres, 489 Timbered Acres►
The forest at Knapp Farm is also an Oak-Hickory forest type, dominated by White Oak. The timber here is also younger than Eastman’s. This is an impressive timber from a quality standpoint. The number of ferns show that is has not been grazed for quite some time. This timber does not have the Hard Maple problem that Eastman has. I did not see any signs of Oak Wilt, which is always a concern in timbers dominated by Oaks. Like the timber at Saukenauk, this timber is overstocked and is in need of some forest management coupled with a commercial thinning. Some areas were either harvested in the past, or cleared for pasture, judging by the size of the trees that are coming in. There are other areas, especially towards the southern boundaries of the property, that are older and a heavier harvest would be appropriate.
There is tremendous potential for this property to produce long-term income if it is managed properly. It is my understanding that the Knapp Farm is not actually owned by the Mississippi Valley Council, but rather is in a trust with the understanding that the Scouts can benefit from use of the property. The best thing that could be done to the forest resource at the Knapp property is to actively manage it using proper forest management principles.
Each of the three properties; Camp Eastman, Camp Saukenauk, and Knapp Farm, contain forest resources which offer opportunities and challenges. The opportunities include recreational aspects, the stewardship of proper natural resource management and long-term income potential. Challenges include funds needed to carry out forest management, social implications of forest management which include harvesting, and the unique relationship of the Knapp property with the Boy Scouts.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the worst thing that the Scouts could do to their forest lands is
to ignore them and do nothing. With the continued spread of Oak Wilt and with what appears to be the imminent arrival of Emerald Ash Borer, keeping forested land growing as healthy and vigorous as possible is the best defense available. Proper forest management, which includes harvesting as a management tool, is the best way to ensure long term health and productivity of the forest.
I encourage the Mississippi Valley Council to pursue managing their forest resources. You do not have to do everything at once. Start out small, make sure everyone is at a reasonable level of comfort, but get going on it.
If you or any of the other Committee members have questions please do not hesitate to give me a call.
Bob Petrzelka, Forester
for Geode Forestry, Inc.