May 11, 2017

2017 Forest Conservationists of the Year presented by WI Wildlife Federation to Jim & Marlene Zdanovec

In 1985, dreams of eventually returning to their roots were realized when Jim and Marlene Zdanovec purchased 160 acres of land in Marathon County, Wisconsin. Wildlife was the main reason the Zdanovecs purchased the property.

The Zdanovec’s objective with this land was to work with the abandoned pits and unmanaged forest to promote long-term productivity of the forest ecosystem with good land stewardship, for the benefit of the land, forest, and wildlife.

Today, the spoil piles are now gone, sloped and contoured by the Zdanovecs to blend in with the surrounding topography. Waste granite from the excavations has been used to construct and repair three miles of access roads. Topsoil was added and areas were vegetated to eliminate erosion into what are now referred to as “wildlife ponds.” Once empty water holes now brim with life. From the spring peepers to the geese to the wild rice that grows along the banks of ponds, forest life flourishes here.

One of the Zdanovec’s first projects was the preparation of a managmenet plan working with a professional forester. The current land composition is about fifty percent hardwoods, forty percent aspen, and ten percent conifers. All but three acres are enrolled in the Managed Forest Law program.

Because areas of aspen were over mature and deteriorating, their first management objective was to work with a wildlife biologist promoting clearcutting five acre parcels at five year intervals to create aspen age diversity, critical habitat for ruffed grouse, woodcock, song birds and other wildlife which favor early succession.

As they provide a good example to others regarding sustainable forestry the Zdanovecs feel very strong about passing their stewardship knowledge to others. They believe that education is the key to what kind of forests, forest activities and forest resources our future generations of Americans will enjoy. School groups, Boy Scout troops, and numerous organizations have been warmly received at the tree farm.

Their educational outreach to others include 17 years of Arbor Day celebration on the Tree Farm with a local school, enabling each student to properly plant a tree and receive a tree for take home planting, together with other activities pertaining to forestry, wildlife, and the environment during that celebration.

Field days on the property included hosting the annual statewide convention field day for Wisconsin Woodland Association (WWOA), 3 chapter field days for WWOA Northcentral Chapter, Managed Forest Law Field Day in Cooperation with the WDNR, hosted Wisconsin Tree Farm Statewide field day, WWOA chapter picnic field day, and a field day for the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) National convention.

Forestry commitments included four years of service on the National Operating Committee (NOC) for the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and two years on that Executive Committee. While on the NOC , the Zdanovecs travled throughout the United States attending many Tree Farm functions as ambassadors for small woodland owner, including a visit to Washington D.C. whre they spoke to their elections official on Capitol Hill. Both have also been active members of the Wsiconsin Tree Farm Committee for the past 14 years.