Students and teachers at Forestview Middle School have been working hard to establish trees in this forest by planting tree seedlings. The tree plantings are converting the brushy, cut over areas into trees, making them more productive for timber products. The plantings also add to the tree species diversity of this forest and enhance the habitat for wildlife. A variety of tree species have been planted. The students will have examples of Minnesota's native trees, which they can observe first-hand during their outdoor study activities.
Establishing trees in the forest takes a lot of work. Here are the steps involved with the tree plantings here at the Dean Makey School Forest:
Site preparation: An area of dense shrubs to convert into trees is identified. The site is prepared for tree planting by mechanically cutting the shrubs down to ground level. This work has been done on most of the planting sites by using heavy equipment, like a "brush hog." Much of the brush cutting work at Forestview has been completed by an operator and equipment donated by the Brainerd Public Utilities Commission.
Tree planting: Students at Forestview plant various species of tree seedlings on the prepared sites. The students plant the seedlings by using hand tree planting tools. The seedlings have been donated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Arbor Day Tree Seedling program.
Tree watering: When conditions turn to unusually dry weather, the students water the tree seedlings that have been planted in the spring.
Mechanical release: The shrubs that were cut during site preparation will resprout and grow back. These shrubs compete with the planted tree seedlings for sunlight. Students will "release" the trees from the competition of the shrubs by mechanically cutting the shrubs using hand tools. This mechanical release work is done annually until the trees have grown above the shrubs and can receive full sunlight.
Deer browse protection: Deer will feed on the twigs and buds of trees during the winter. To prevent the deer from damaging the planted tree seedlings, two methods of browse protection are used. Yellow, plastic, mesh tubes called "tree shelters" are placed around the seedlings. Another method, called "bud capping," places a small piece of paper around the top buds of the tree. The tree shelters and bud caps are installed in the fall to provide protection during the winter months until new, green forage is available to deer in the spring. Then, the tree shelters and bud caps can be removed, so the trees can grow unrestricted during the summer. The deer browsing protection needs to be done each fall until the trees grow out of the reach of the deer.
As you can see, a lot of work is needed to establish forest tree seedlings. Most of the work to accomplish this at the Dean Makey School Forest is done by the students and teachers. The process has worked well to successfully establish thousands of trees. While doing so, the students learn about and experience nature, and learn how to be good stewards of the land.
As you walk the trails of the Dean Makey School Forest, watch for the interpretive signs and Aurasmas that tell of the forest management activities being completed there!