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The TEMS approach.

In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a papermaker and an ecology firm are creating a bird's-eye view of ecosystem forestry.

Beth Rogers' ear is finetuned to the timbre and range and harmonic qualities of visiting South Americans. She doesn't work for a Latino recording studio or a Miami radio station. In fact, Rogers works in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, about as far from South America as you can get and still be in the contiguous 48.

But Rogers does have a lot of commerce with Latin American air travelers. An ornithologist by both training and passion, she is a key scientist on a team originally assembled by The Mead Corporation and White Water Associates, a Michigan ecology consulting firm. The team is studying the ecosystem implications of forest management on industrial timberland in the so-called "UP."

At its plant in Escanaba, Michigan, Mead manufactures papers like the coated sheet these words are printed on. Part of the required wood fiber is derived from almost 700,000 acres of Michigan timberland the company owns and manages.

In 1989, Mead adopted a policy to manage forest resources in ways that balance commodity production with protection of other forest values. The resulting "Forest Resource Ownership and Management Philosophy" was necessarily long on theory but short on practical specifics, leaving it to local managers to formulate the details themselves.

"If you have no baseline data, and if you neglect to measure changes over time, there is no way to know if your forest-management practices are beneficial or detrimental in terms of the criteria we and others are now addressing," insists Jim Okraszewski, Mead woodlands division vice president.

Mead's fruitful collaboration with White Water Associates was born out of this conviction that worthwhile "ecosystem management" must be based on something more than just "the warm fuzzies."

White Water was founded by Drs. Dean and Bette Premo, scientists with a deeply held concern for the environment. Their love of the forested landscapes and communities of the upper Midwest is rooted in their status as fourth-generation "Yupers." They also share Okraszewski's view that ways can and must be found to meet legitimate human needs while caring for the pieces and processes that comprise the global ecosystem.

The two organizations initiated a project called Total Ecosystem Management Strategies, or "TEMS," which, faithful to the participatory spirit of the endeavor, is pronounced "teams." Convinced of the wisdom of starting small and learning together as their relationship matured, the two firms began by selecting a 25,000-acre study "landscape" in the watershed of the Fence River in the west-central UP. In addition to including some large, contiguous blocks of Mead ownership that have been under active management for at least 50 years, the region has a rich cultural heritage and historic roots as a source of white-pine timber. Remnants of cribbed log dams used to store and release water for river-driven delivery of pine logs to Wisconsin sawmills can still be spotted by alert observers.

Initial goals for the Fence River landscape program included:

* Maintaining a flow of forest products, pulpwood and sawtimber, and providing a modest level of recreation opportunities (hunting, fishing, and camping).

* Obtaining basic information about the ecosystems in the study landscape to use in designing management approaches that maintain the viability of native plant and animal communities. The information that was needed extended from a snapshot of what was initially "out there" to a monitoring system that would provide a continuing flow of data and would relate forest-management practices to the health of the ecosystem and its parts.

* Developing an effective process to exchange information so the practical implications of what was learned could be placed in the hands of field foresters as soon as possible.

One of the first sources of information to which researchers turned was the avian community. The question posed was, "How do birds respond to this landscape, and what do these responses tell us about our forest-management practices?"

Beth Rogers and her White Water colleague, Dave Tiller, conducted a systematic sample of nesting birds in the spring of 1991. Field plots were visited from 5:30 until 10:30 a.m. on designated sampling days, the time of day when males most vociferously declare their territorial boundaries. Although sightings occur frequently, audible identification of individual species at sampling points is the only way to obtain complete and representative data in heavily wooded settings. Keen hearing is a must.

Ninety-three species were identified, of which 51 percent were neotropical migrants--many of the warblers, the scarlet tanager, the alder flycatcher, and others--birds that overwinter in the Caribbean and in the forests of Central and South America. These species are of particular interest because of their dwindling numbers and fragmented breeding and wintering habitat.

The bird-sampling data also made it possible to learn what species and species groups used broad habitat components of the landscape: closed forest, edge, and open wetland.

In 1992, the research agenda was significantly expanded. New directions include:

* A mammal-tracking study, to quantify the use of different forest conditions adjacent to the West Fence River. Researchers also hope to learn how best to design streamside buffers to meet the habitat requirements of the 18 species detected during the study period. The list itself said a lot about the biodiversity of the study area. It included one federally listed endangered species--the gray wolf--for which a recovery plan is currently in preparation.

Identified during the sampling period were: gray wolf, river otter, snowshoe hare, Eastern chipmunk, gray and red squirrel, deer mouse, porcupine, coyote, raccoon, fisher, ermine, longtailed weasel, mink, bobcat, whitetail deer, shrew spp, Vole spp.

Of significance for forest managers was the finding that wildlife was more apt to make use of hardwood and conifer stands that were within 400 feet of the river.

* A study of the Fence River that related several measures of water quality (suspended solids, turbidity, total organic carbon, and total phosphorous) to seasonal water status (before, during, and after snowmelt) and to timber cutting in stands that were adjacent to the stream and buffered by uncut sections of varying widths.

* A study of stream biodiversity designed to characterize the health of the Fence River's aquatic ecosystem. Insects from 30 families and six orders were identified: mayflies, dragonflies, stoneflies, beetles, caddisflies, and two-winged flies.

* A buffer-zone study that evaluated bird populations in the forested corridor adjacent to the Fence River.

* An evaluation of bird activity in red-pine plantations.

* Lastly, a study of a "vernal pond," a depression that collects water during snowmelt, then gradually dries up as spring progresses into summer.

The annual TEMS Report for 1992 describes the contribution vernal ponds make to biological diversity in the study landscape, and underscores the rationale for maintaining corridors between ponds and nearby untreated forest stands:

"The greening trees and shrubs surrounding the pond offer places for emerging insects to land and thus provide food and forage locations for species of foliage- and bark-feeding birds (e.g. yellow-bellied sapsucker, black-capped chickadee, brown creeper, winter wren, golden-crowned kinglet, and ruby-crowned kinglet). Aquatic invertebrates in the pond provide food for wood ducks, black ducks, and bluewing teal. Some songbirds, such as common grackles and yellow-rumped warblers, were observed gleaning insects from the edge of the pond. Predators--great blue heron, broad-winged hawk, gray jay, and common raven--were seen in the immediate vicinity of the pond, perhaps taking advantage of the prey base of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and small mammals."

TEMS has had a pervasive influence on forest management at Mead. For the long term, perhaps the most significant change is better understanding of the ecosystems the company works with, and increased sensitivity to their frailties.

Applications of forest management are also changing. In access-road construction, for example, much attention is paid to the microsites a road must traverse, and care is taken to avoid damaging transition zones between forest types, zones such as "seeps," minor drainageways that often provide habitat for unusual species of plants.

In harvest planning, the relationship of stands scheduled for treatment to adjacent untreated areas is considered, as well as characteristics of the stands themselves. An effort to minimize fragmentation and create islands is part of the normal planning process.

The TEMS approach has also expanded the management-planning process to include more variables and more people. Today, when a new or unusual forest condition is encountered, experts are more likely to be consulted before irreversible actions are initiated. A culture of participation and shared responsibility for decisionmaking is taking shape among landowners and special-interest groups.

Marvin Roberson, national chair of the Sierra Club's Forest Practices Committee and a member of the Mackinac (Michigan) Chapter of Sierra Club, sees the dialogue with Mead as a useful model:

"I think that what we are doing probably has some national significance," Robertson says. "As I look around the nation at the decisionmaking process over forest management, I see nowhere else that representatives from leading timber producers and environmental groups are genuinely talking about forest management in the way we have been doing."

In 1992, two other private institutional landowners joined the ecosystem study program, which was expanded into a nearby area known as Mulligan Creek. Champion International, a timber company, owns 6,000 acres within this study zone, and Longyear Realty holds 2,500 acres.

Jake Hayrynen, forest-operations manager for Longyear, says the ecosystem-management approach brings a new dimension of excitement to his job, reflecting his enthusiasm for better tools to help Longyear's foresters with their management duties.

"We want to do the thing that's right," Hayrynen says," and this program goes a long way in helping us understand what the right thing is."

W.D. (Bill) Ticknor is president of a forestry consultant firm of the same name headquartered in Orient, Ohio.
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Title Annotation:Ecosystem Management; Total Ecosystem Management Strategies
Author:Ticknor, W.D.
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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