But our aspen ecotype is now being threatened in the state of Wisconsin. And itʼs not from logging! In-fact, forest ecologists attribute the declining acreage of aspen forests due to better fire suppression and a reluctance of our society to simulate fire disturbance by clear cutting. Clear cutting has become taboo, a four letter word of sorts. It is ingrained in many peoplesʼ minds as a bad thing, and nothing good comes from it. But, as we see less clear cutting, the trade-off is that the aspen ecotype is being depleted. As aspen now have the time to mature and die, more shade tolerant hardwoods are taking over the forest.
There are several bird species whose life cycles are dependent upon young aspen stands. The woodcock and gold-winged warbler are two species whose recent population declines are a direct result of suppressing fires, an aging aspen forest and minimal disturbance harvesting in aspen stands. The birds need the dense, young stands of recently disturbed aspen to raise their broods.
At Kretz Lumber Company, we get very little of our raw material from aspen clear cuts. But as a forester, the aspen life cycle is the most dramatic and illustrates the dynamic nature of our ecosystems. We should not forget that forests naturally grow back after harvest and the forests we see today will change over time.
You may disagree with clear cutting as a practice. And certainly, there are certain timber types that generally should not be clear cut for a host of economic and ecological reasons. But in the case of aspen, itʼs decline is resulting in less ideal habitat for birds and a changing of the Wisconsin landscape. And we must remember, because we are entering unprecedented territory, the impact this decline will have on our ecosystem in the future is still unknown.