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Aspen Management Project Set to Begin
North Dakota Ag Connection - 09/12/2017

The North Dakota Forest Service (NDFS) and North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDG&FD) have partnered to implement treatments aimed at improving the long-term sustainability of quaking aspen in the Turtle Mountains and improve wildlife habitat. Utilizing a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Wildlife Restoration Act, the agencies were able to purchase a forestry brush cutter and a large skid steer for implementing stand treatments.

The aspen/birch forest type comprises nearly 17 percent of North Dakota's forestland. The majority of this forest type is located in the Turtle Mountains and represents the state's largest concentration of forestland. Lack of fire disturbance and/or harvesting has resulted in older stands with minimal natural regeneration within these forests. The current condition of many stands are characterized by extensive stem decay and large stem mortality caused by canker fungi. In addition, these stands are prone to periodic outbreaks of defoliating insects that reduces growth, predisposes trees to other damaging agents, and intensifies the process of aging aspen stands.

The forestry brush cutter and skid steer will be used to regenerate these stands by removing old trees and allowing vigorous regrowth of aspen suckers (root sprouts). Such young aspen thickets benefit many species of wildlife such as deer, moose, and ruffed grouse.

The agencies hope to apply regeneration treatments in small 5- to 10-acre patch cuttings over the next 10 years to high priority NDFS and NDG&FD lands. Larger felled trees that cannot be ground up with the equipment will be stacked, set aside and made available for firewood cutting. The work will begin this fall. For more information about the project, contact Tom Nowatzki, state forests manager, at (701) 228-3700.

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