WWOA members, Kent and Jeanette Makela of Maple, say their family history has influenced how they manage their woodlands. As Kent says, “Being a somewhat stoic Finnlander, getting passionate about anything can be a stretch . . .that said, I do fantasize about returning the land to what it must have looked like before the great cut-over. WWOA has caused me to focus on this sort of goal, as well as meeting others who, while we may have different goals, share the same passions.”
The Makelas have randomly planted white pine, white spruce and yellow birch to create a seed-tree stocking base, three species that Kent is sure were present on the landscape and are now absent. Kent states, “So, I guess you could say I am passionate about historical restoration of our forest. I have looked at the original survey notes of George Stuntz and picture him making notes on the section corner just down from our house.”
The forests of the Great Lakes region are part of Kents family’s genetic make-up. He had a great-uncle that worked the Canadian logging camps at the dawn of the 20th century. He has a photo of his grandfather and other local farmers loading what are probably hardwood logs destined to become railroad ties with a horse-powered boom. In the background, the hills that today are nicely forested, are stump-covered and bare. Kent guesses that this photo was taken after the great cut-over in the early 30’s when his grandfather was a young man.
Other relatives worked the local logging camps on a daily basis while continuing the subsistence farming that was common in that era. Kents father farmed year-around, but spent the winter “cutting pulp with his uncle during the 50’s and early 60’s once the mills discovered aspen could be used to make paper products.”
Over the years, that first 40 acres that Kent acquired as a teenager from his parents by offering to pay the property taxes in exchange for his name on the deed has grown to 160. Jeanette and Kent live on 120 of the 160 acres (the other 40 is not attached, but close by) near Maple where they raised their two sons.
Most of Kents early forest management efforts are under the heading of what he has come to call “benign neglect.” Cutting mature aspen when both time and markets were favorable, cutting birch for mills as it matured and of course, a lot of firewood over the years.
A bad experience with a local logger caused him to look to WWOA as well as a now defunct forestry coop to search for a more formal, science-based management strategy. The Wisconsin Forest Landowner Grant program (WFLGP) partially funded his first management plan. The plan provided the oversight and inventory for a formal, well-managed timber sale.
After the sale, he again used the same grant funding to do a random planting of mostly conifer species on the property. Since then, Kent has used federal EQUIP funding to update his management plan. While creating economic value has been a consideration when formulating his management plan, one of his goals is to restore some species to the landscape that were no longer present, mainly white pine and yellow birch. Only future generations will know if that effort is successful.
A great source of information for Kent was the original survey notes from the Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records (digicoll.library.wisc.edu/SurveyNotes) Creating a trail system and forest openings provided an opportunity for both hunting and wildlife viewing, as well as creating an “edge” area favored by some species of wildlife. Information from WWOA’s programs was invaluable in helping Kent do this.
The Makelas have raised and been active in showing German Shepherds since the early 1980s, they are gradually getting out of showing and have opened a dog boarding kennel. Their woodlands provide trails to exercise the boarding dogs and Kent keeps them maintained year-around. This creates a great hunting opportunity for both deer and grouse, as well as hiking and berry picking as the season allows. One of their sons, as well as a grandson shot their first deer and grouse on the back 40. They also use the property to indoctrinate the grand-children with their version of forest management values.
Today, the development rights to the Makelas property are owned by the West Wisconsin Land Trust. Sound forestry practices and recreational activities are allowed to continue while they have the peace of mind knowing the property will remain intact in perpetuity.