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Trees for Tomorrow experiments with deer deterrents to help trees grow

Protective nets are placed over newly planted trees to help protect them from deer.
Katie Thoresen
Protective nets are placed over newly planted trees to help protect them from deer.

Trees for Tomorrow was founded on the premise that for every tree that was cut down, two would be planted in its place.

Back in the 40s, when the organization was created, trees were planted on the Eagle River campus. They were just about ready to be harvested when a 2020 windstorm pushed the timeline up a bit.

“We always had plans of cutting them, but we were able to cut them, get that timber off to the mills, and then start over,” said Todd Starling, the environmental educator for Trees for Tomorrow. “It feels great to kind of roll back the history and do what the founders of this organization were doing.”

The aftermath of the storm and harvest left large open areas. It’s now given Trees for Tomorrow and the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest, who manages part of the campus, a chance to experiment.

As WXPR reported last May, the Forest Service planted more than 3,000 trees in the areas where the blow down and harvest occurred.

Trees for Tomorrow recently planted more than 800 trees.

Both planted with climate change in mind in regard to species diversity, including some you typically see in slightly warmer environments.

“We’re even taking it as far as planting some shagbark hickory, which generally isn't found as far north in Wisconsin, but with the changing climate there are going to be some new tree species moving here. We want to see how those grow in our climate here,” said Starling.

They also are trying different types of deer deterrents until the trees are above browsing height.

On the Forest Service side, there are tubes and plastic fencing around the hardwoods.

On the Trees for Tomorrow side, more than 300 trees were planted in a 100 by 100-foot “exclosure” with 8 foot wire woven fence.

Starling says it will give them and the students that take classes on the campus the opportunity to study deer browse and the impacts of deer on the forest as well as the growth rates of the various trees planted.

“It's an amazing opportunity in all senses. Then we get to write curriculum to form around it,” said Starling. “The students will actually be the ones taking the data for these for the longevity of the project. We will collect ongoing data for as many years as we can on that. It’s a great opportunity.”

Some of the trees were also planted outside of the fencing as a control sample for the study.

As part of the project, Trees for Tomorrow is also doing invasive species control on the campus.

People from the Blackwell Job Corps were on the Campus Wednesday doing some of that work while also taking part in a pilot program for the job corps. You can learn more about that project Friday on WXPR.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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