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Step 2: Assessing the Harvest Area

MFL and FCL Harvesting

Approximate time to complete step #2: Three to 12 months.

The second step of the harvesting process is to assess the forest area that will be harvested. This step includes determining if there are threatened and endangered species to be protected, archaeological, historical and cultural sites to be protected and which best management practices (BMPs) will be needed for invasive species and water quality.

It is critical that the assessment described below occurs before the cutting notice is filled out.

Water quality

Before the cutting notice can be filled out, determine whether any water resources exist on or near the area that will be harvested. This information is used to determine which best management practices (BMPs) for water quality will need to be implemented so that water quality can be protected while the trees are being cut.

Inventory the property

The person completing the cutting notice and setting up the timber harvest will need to inventory the property and/or use aerial photography (or other online mapping resources) to determine the answers to the following questions before the cutting notice is filled out:

  • Are there lakes, streams, wetlands, dry washes, seeps, etc. on the property? 
  • Will any roads need to be built or reconstructed?
  • Will any waterways or wetlands need to be crossed by equipment?
  • Will any drainage structures be needed such as culverts, drainage ditches, broad-based dips, etc.?
  • Will any permits be needed? 
  • Are there any existing erosion or water quality issues on site, such as steep slopes?
  • Will riparian management zones or wetland filter strips be needed?

If water resources are not present

Even if water resources are not present within the area that will be harvested, road construction, water drainage, soils, slope, etc. can mean that the timber harvesting activities could have impacts on water resources outside of the harvest area within the larger watershed. Care should be taken to consider how the timber harvest area relates to the surrounding landscape.

Invasive species

Before the cutting notice can be filled out, determine whether any invasive plants, pests or pathogens exist on or near the area that will be harvested. This information is used to determine which best management practices (BMPs) will need to be implemented to reduce the introduction and spread of invasive species while the trees are being cut.

Inventory the property

The person completing the cutting notice and setting up the timber harvest will need to inventory the property to determine the answers to the following questions before the cutting notice is filled out. Answers to these questions could be determined by talking with the landowner or the DNR forester, but are most often determined after scouting the site.

  • Are there any invasive plants present on site?
  • Do you see signs of pests, pathogens or diseases present on site?
  • Are there any invasive plants on nearby or neighboring sites?
  • Are there signs of pests, pathogens or diseases on nearby or neighboring sites?
  • What is the infestation level of invasive plants, pests, pathogens or diseases if present?

Even if it is winter, the person completing the cutting notice and setting up the timber harvest should still be able to identify some invasive species.

Impacts of invasives on the harvest

The person completing the cutting notice and setting up the timber harvest will also need to think about what impacts the presence of invasive plants, pests, pathogens and diseases could have on the timber harvest itself, including the consideration of future forest growth.  It is critical to think about the impacts that invasives might have on future forest growth, because poor forest growth could put lands at risk of falling out of compliance with the requirements of the MFL or FCL programs. The questions below should be considered before trees are marked for harvesting.

  • Depending on the type of harvest being prescribed, how is the increased sunlight going to affect any invasives that have been identified?
  • What recommendations have been provided to the landowner about monitoring the spread of invasives after the harvest?
  • How is the harvest prescription going to affect future forest growth if invasives are present on site?  
  • If the harvest prescription will increase the amount of invasives on site after the harvest given increased sunlight, what recommendations or caveats have been provided to the landowner and logger?
  • If the harvest prescription cannot avoid invasives or the threat of spreading invasives, how will impacts be mitigated or minimized and how has that been communicated to the landowner and logger? 

If invasives are not present

Even if invasive species are not present within the area that will be harvested, timber harvesting activities may still introduce invasives to the site. Therefore, BMPs for invasive species should still be implemented even if invasives are not identified or present.

Threatened and endangered species (NHI)

Before the cutting notice can be filled out, determine whether any endangered or threatened species exist on or near the area that will be harvested. This information is used to determine how the timber harvest will be conducted so that endangered and threatened species can be protected while the trees are being cut. State law requires that the potential impacts to endangered or threatened species are addressed when preparing a cutting notice.

Request the NHI data

The person completing the cutting notice and setting up the timber harvest requests Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI) data from the DNR forester before the cutting notice is submitted to the DNR and before any on-the-ground work occurs. This can be done by email or letter and must contain the following information:

  • the location of the property, by public land survey township, range, section and quarter-quarter section;
  • the number of acres;
  • a map with the property boundary shown for irregularly shaped properties;
  • the name of the landowner and a statement that they have permission from the landowner to make the request;
  • the requestor’s contact information; and
  • the date of the request.
An example email requesting Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI) information.
An example of an NHI request.

DNR forester provides NHI search results

The DNR forester then searches the NHI database to determine if any endangered or threatened species exist on or near the area that will be harvested. If endangered or threatened species do exist, the DNR forester will provide that information along with what measures need to be taken during the timber harvest to protect those species. The DNR forester will share that information with the person who requested the information so that the cutting notice can be properly filled out.

NHI data is considered sensitive, so it is protected by law and not subject to open record requests. The DNR foresters may share a report with the landowner only about NHI data for their property but distribution of the data beyond that is strictly prohibited.

Archaeological, historical and cultural resources

Before the cutting notice can be filled out, determine whether any archaeological, historical and cultural resources exist on the area that will be harvested. State laws--and even some federal laws--require that the potential impacts to archaeological, historical and cultural resources be addressed when preparing a cutting notice. This information is used to determine how the timber harvest will be conducted so that these important resources can be protected while the trees are being cut.

Request the data

The person who will be filling out the cutting notice and setting up the timber harvest requests the archaeological, historical and cultural data from the DNR forester before the cutting notice is submitted to the DNR and before any on-the-ground work occurs. This can be done by email or letter and must contain the following information:

  • state that the request is for information for an MFL/FCL cutting notice; and
  • provide a full legal description of the property (town, range, section) and acres.

The DNR forester provides search results

The DNR forester then searches a website shared between the DNR and the Wisconsin Historical Society to determine if any archaeological, historical and cultural resources exist on or near the area that will be harvested.  If there is a recorded resource, the DNR forester must request more information from a DNR archaeologist, who will review the request and provide additional information to the DNR forester on the type of resource identified and recommendations for how to avoid impacting those resources during the timber harvest. The DNR forester will share that information with the person who requested the information so that the cutting notice can be properly filled out.

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