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Wisconsin Forest Recovery

Looking back, logging in this state has had its share of abuses in the last 150 years. Not much thought was put into harvest techniques, reforestation, or forestry until the early part of 20th century. People knew that after logging, the forest just grew back. Which it did, unless the forest was converted to farm fields, cities or roads.

After heavy logging in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, much land was burned and converted to agriculture. For the last 100 years, Wisconsin has seen some of the forest area recover through planting. But the most significant recovery came from nature itself. Reseeding and resprouting of trees happened immediately after many of the farm fields were abandoned.

Many tree species thrive after natural disturbances like fire and wind storms, but the clearing of land and burning of slash simulated the same conditions that allowed certain tree species to become established once the fields were abandoned. Many of our current forests are the result of reseeding and resprouting after abandonment. The forests we see today are a direct result of years of hard work by public and private foresters, loggers and landowners.

The current trend sees more landowners practicing sustained management on their private woodlands. This recovery is measurable and since 1936, the U.S. Forest Service has a statutory obligation to inventory the forests of each state on a periodic basis. The Wisconsin DNR assists in this statewide forest inventory, which were completed in 1936, 1956, 1968, 1983, 1996 and 2008.

The result of the Forest Inventory shows a positive trend in growth verses removals. Our net annual growth (total growth minus natural mortality) continues to exceed annual harvests. In 1996, approximately 70% of Wisconsin’s annual forest growth was harvested. It means that after logging and natural mortality, we finished the year with 30% more tree volume than when we started. The dramatic recovery of Wisconsin’s forests from cut-over, abandoned farm and forest land of the early 1900’s to the high value forest shown in this inventory illustrates how far we’ve come in managing our forests for ecological as well as product sustainability.

Do you have questions you’d like to ask a forester? Send them to us at And for more information about Kretz Lumber Forestry Services, visit

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