Forestry, with a challenge and a view

Written by Michael Lynch

Nearly 50 forest stewards from six states came to La Crosse, WI last month to discuss the important and complicated issue of forest restoration in the bluffs and bottomlands of the Upper Mississippi. It is hard to overstate the importance of the Mississippi River and its floodplain forests to commerce, wildlife, and the social fabric of this country. We focused this meeting on the restoration of bottomland forests within a matrix of open channels, backwaters, wild rice bays, and wet meadows in a one to four mile wide floodplain that extends from Saint Paul, MN to Saint Louis, MO and is flanked by high bluffs that have their own restoration challenges.

The first day was dedicated to indoor presentations that ranged from Peter Bundy’s discussion on forest restoration as a philosophical approach, to applied research from the US Geological Survey and area Universities, to on-the-ground case studies. We had a terrific meeting space on the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse campus with views of the grand bluffs over the city. All presentations were excellent and fit very well together.

We followed this by an evening social at the Pearl Street Brewery. The evening was highlighted by John Sullivan donating nine trees for a free raffle (see photo of the winners). The space and conversation were just as the Guild likes it – welcoming, thought-provoking, and fulfilling.

The field tour on day two included some ‘food for thought’. Work on the Upper Mississippi is a frontier of forest restoration. There is no template, methods are highly experimental, and the fluctuating water levels complicate the ‘best laid plans’ but the returns for successful restoration are enormous in terms of wildlife, water quality, and a multitude of other benefits. Forest restoration in this ecosystem is daunting but there are some bright and dedicated people working on this crucial issue and their passion made for a great field tour.
Special thanks to our event sponsors Applied Ecological Services, United States Army Corps of Engineers, and the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse River Studies Center and Biology Department.

For those interested in Guild Gatherings along the Mississippi consider attending the upcoming Bottomland Hardwood Learning Exchange next month in Baton Rouge, LA.