February 28, 2018

Dale and his wife, Lola, were awarded the 2013 Crawford County Conservation Forestry Award for their efforts to promote and enhance healthy forests in southwestern Wisconsin.

Dale Parker was looking to come home when he purchased 80 acres in northwest Richland County in 1978. As a teenager, he had hunted the property, but as an adult, had an added interest in producing high quality timber on the land. A lot of the property was mixed hardwoods like ash, oak, and maple, but about 18 acres of it was on an old ridgetop meadow overrun by brome grass.

After consulting with Wisconsin DNR forester and recently deceased WWOA member, Rudy Nigl, in addition to a soil conservationist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dale decided to plant the brome grass meadow with black walnut.

The entire property was enrolled in the Managed Forest Law (MFL) program to help formalize the management plan. Dale has practiced timber stand improvement on the property with three crop tree releases. The property is currently in harvest mode and is half done.

As with anything, the unexpected and undesired happens, and Dale was one of the first landowners in the area to have a confirmed case of oak wilt. The recommended (and soon implemented) treatment was to cut all of the oaks in the immediate circle, then trench around them to break up any root graphs that could facilitate the disease spread.

The oak weren’t the only species susceptible to ill fortune. Dale’s logger spotted the ash on his property and recommended Dale remove them in the harvest. “I was hesitant. Just a few more years would bring them to small sawlogs, but I eventually conceded and was glad I did after I found the emerald ash borer in the woods that following fall,” Dale explains.

Dale found his trusted logger by talking to other WWOA members in the area. Dale first learned about WWOA, as well as The Walnut Council, from his forester, Rudy, who encouraged him to join both organizations to expand his networks and connections with neighbors and natural resource professionals, and to learn more about managing his property.

Following Rudy’s advice, Dale joined both organizations. He enjoyed his membership with both so much that he soon purchased life memberships with both to express and receive continued support in the years to come.

By being involved, Dale has made the most of his membership. He served on WWOA’s Bad Axe Chapter board as Secretary for numerous years and has hosted field days with the Walnut Council. He greatly enjoys local field days for the opportunity to get to know neighbors and learn from other people that may be having similar problems.

Dale notes: “WWOA is a great organization and if you have woodlands, you ought to join. The excellent magazine alone is well worth the price of admission. And the Annual Meetings are fantastic, too! If you haven’t gone, go.”

While Dale does enjoy seasonal hunts for deer and turkey, his favorite woodland activity is chainsaw work. He enjoys cutting his own timber on occasion, and regularly makes and sells firewood.

He has also used some of the timber (aspen) to build three different log structures on his property. A 10-by-15-foot garage is made with a chink and notch style build, whereas a larger machine shed was made with a Swedish cope style. Having a large overhanging roof to keep the buildings dry and applying a preservative to the wood helps maintain them.

Dale enjoys retirement to his property, and as his fight against oak wilt and the brome grass on the ridge continues, so does his passion and drive to protect and promote the wellness of his woodlands.