The township recently hired Wildlife Management Concepts to complete a forestry plan for the property, which is adjacent to the township’s Hofma Preserve, at an estimated cost of about $1,150.
“The plan envisions that the non-native pines will be harvested and chipped commercially for either blueberry fields or for a new chipboard industry located in Grayling,” Township Manager Bill Cargo said.
The wildlife management group was hired after township officials toured the property with forestry experts from the Ottawa County Soil and Conservation District in late 2017. Based on the tour, it was noted that large swaths of Scotch and Austrian pine should be removed, the areas of natural white pines should be removed by about two-thirds, and native species should be re-introduced.
In an October 2017 Tribune article, Cargo said that the former Christmas tree farm as it currently exists was considered an “ecological dead zone” due to its lack of diversity, lack of food for native wildlife and the amount of disease/fungus on many of the pines. He also noted that there was still a number of woody invasive bushes that needed to be removed before the invasive plants spread over large segments of the land.
As a result of the proposed plan from Wildlife Management Concepts, Cargo said that the area of existing white pines would remain. However, it would be thinned to allow the remaining trees to grow and thrive.
“The resulting stump field, with branches and tops left after the harvest, would be rotovated and converted to native trees, shrub, grasslands and wildflowers with 20-30 2- to 3-acre plantings of grasses, native shrubs, and pines and deciduous trees,” Cargo said.
Cargo noted that the goal is to create “many oddly shaped blocks” of herbaceous grasses and wildflowers, intersected by rows or corridors of woody trees with walking trails winding throughout.