A view through the trees of St. Joseph Lake at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind. As forest stewards we have the obligation to actively increase the benefits of our land, while protecting the quality of its natural resources for future generations.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources recently conducted a statistical survey of the trees in our 320 acres of Classified Forests at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind. The Sisters of Providence now have a clear picture of what trees and how many of each species are in each tract.

The primary species present include: tulip poplar (the state tree of Indiana), sugar maple, white ash, American beech, red oak, white oak, black oak, pignut hickory, shagbark hickory, sassafras, black cherry and red maple.

Our forests have “lain fallow” since 1989 when the last of the tree harvests of the 1980’s was conducted. According to our district forester, the forests are now reasonably healthy and it is time to adopt an active management plan.

Management of our forest resources will require the implementation of a variety of care and cultivation practices including grapevine and invasive species control, timber stand improvement, thinning, pruning and timber harvesting.

Proper implementation can help improve the overall health, quality and diversity of the woodlands. Forest management is a long term investment and the benefits may take decades to materialize. Although areas such as timber harvests may initially look unpleasing, the long term benefits can be beneficial. Harvesting over a rotation period of 15 years is normal.

The forests are divided geographically into eight stands. Harvesting one stand every two years would take 18 years and rotation then starts again. This scenario divides up revenue; it also helps from an educational viewpoint. An area currently being harvested can be compared with an area that was harvested 16 years ago.

As members of the Classified Forest Program, we are also certified through the American Tree Farm System; so any trees harvested from our property are considered “green” certified (www.fscus.org).

Indeed, as forest stewards we have the obligation to actively increase the benefits of our land, while protecting the quality of its natural resources for future generations.

(Further information about the Classified Forest Program can be found at www.in.gov/dnr_old/forestry/privateland/clasfor.htm).

For more information about the Sisters of Providence Classified Forests, contact Robyn Morton at 812-535-2932 or rmorton@spsmw.org.