First Person: The Chequamegon-Nicolet turns 80
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is celebrating its 80th birthday this year. We caught up with Paul Strong, forest supervisor, to find out a little history about this land and what’s in store for a celebration.
Star Journal-How much land is in this forest?
Paul Strong-The Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest comprises 1.5 million acres.
SJ-Why are you celebrating this forest being 80 years old?
PS-It’s a classic birthday if you are a human, and we felt it was an important milestone and
SJ-How did this land become a national forest?
PS-Back in 1933 when this land became a national forest, it was pretty much cut over from timber companies. There was a movement to sell it as agricultural land but that didn’t work out because most of the acreage was filled with stumps. A committee was formed to look at this land then, because it needed restoration.
SJ-How was this done?
PS-A lot of the work was done by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC).That was a great program, not only for the forest but also for getting people a job and back to work.
SJ-What were some of the projects they performed?
PS-The Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest has lots of infrastructure thanks to the CCC. There are roads and buildings they constructed and this organization helped replant a lot of the forest. It is amazing to see that a lot of the work these people did is evident in this day and age.
SJ-What are some of the challenges of operating this forest?
PS-The forest is used for various purposes. For instance, it is a big recreation area. But there are enthusiasts who like to hike, some who like to camp, fish, hunt and some who like to drive around in the forest. There are areas that are managed for wildlife and there are areas that are managed for profit. So we have to look at all those uses and make sure it can all balance. We have to manage it sustainably.
SJ-What are some of the challenges you see managing it into the future?
PS-One challenge is that we live in a hungry society. The world is an international trade kind of place, so when we manage the forest for fiber, we have to balance sustainability and profit. Another aspect of managing this land is looking at the environmental changes that will take place over the next 100 years. We seem to be in a more variable period of time as far as weather goes and we have to do all we can to make sure it is adaptive to that fact. We also have to watch out for AIS in the forest. Good examples of what can happen are when we got Dutch Elm disease in this country and now Emerald Ash Borer. These invasive species can have a great effect on a forest.
SJ-How hard is it to manage the forest economically?
PS-It’s very hard. Budget restraints play a big role in how the forest is managed. But we are finding allies in management practices. Take, for example, the Ruffed Grouse Society. This association partnered with the forest to provide habitat for grouse. They gave us funds to do this and I think that’s going to be a big part of how these lands are managed in the future.
SJ-What sort of celebrations are in the works to celebrate the forest’s 80th birthday?
PS-One event is coming up on Thursday, April 25, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest supervisor office at 500 Hanson Lake Rd. in Rhinelander. From 5:30 to 6 p.m., there will be promotional videos shown that were produced by Nicolet Technical College graphic design students and then from 6 to 6:45 p.m., there will be a presentation by artist Ruth Lull, an associate professor of art from Northland College, who will be showing her exhibit of work called “Retrospective of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.”
For more information about this national forest and for other events, visit the forest website here.