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Tomorrow’s Trees Today

Posted: May 26, 2016

Dwight Yoakam brought us Tomorrow’s Sounds Today 16 years ago. Penn’s woods have been bringing us Tomorrow’s Trees Today for centuries.
Photo Credit: JT Fleegle

Photo Credit: JT Fleegle

You may be surprised to learn that I am a HUGE Dwight Yoakam fan.  I can thank my grandmother for that.  Because of her, I’m also a Jim Reeves, Wayne Newton, and Perry Como fan too but I digress.

When I sat down to write about tomorrow’s trees, I wasn’t very excited or inspired by the topic.  Trees are boring.  I know this.  You know this.  We all know this.  Firmly rooted in the ground, they don’t move.  They grow really, really slow.  They don’t have big brown eyes or cute white spots.  They don’t taste very good being all pithy and dry.  They are not sexy.  There may be some sexy tree species in the tropics but here.  Not so much.

Then add to this the often frowned upon topic of regeneration.  Insert eye roll and yawn.  I know.  I’m right there with you.  Yet such is my plight – write a blog post about regeneration.

Enter Dwight Yoakam.  My brain is a very busy place and it is impossible for me to explain how it gets from one place/topic to another.  

Somehow Dwight and regeneration collided on my high speed thought-obahn.   

One of Mr. Tightpants’ albums is titled Tomorrow’s Sounds Today (I highly recommend it but then again I highly recommend all his albums).  A review of the album called it retro and the artist timeless.  I would agree.  The same could be said of Penn’s woods.  

Ret*ro adjective 1. Imitative of style, fashion, or design from the recent past.

While we cannot see it in our life span, the forests are constantly re-inventing themselves.  Changing but somehow not.  A constant throwback to a previous iteration.  Ever hear of succession?

Little tree grows.  Becomes big tree.  Big trees are mean and shade out all the other little trees so they can’t get big.  Big tree lives life happily making seeds.  One day big trees falls.  Little trees rejoice.  One of the little trees becomes a big tree.  Need I go on?

Time*less adjective 1. Not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion.

Really, is there a better way to describe a forest?  Politics, war, the latest Kardashian selfie – all come and go.  The forest is still there unaffected, unassuming, unyielding.

I say, “Go you, girl!”  The forest is probably genderless but I’m self-identifying.  It’s my post.  

And all those little trees – That’s retro timeless regeneration!  Lots of those little trees will never become big trees.  But do you know what they will always be?  Lunch for a white-tailed deer!

Tomorrow’s trees are important not only because some of them might become big trees but because they are TODAY’S DEER FOOD.  Browse (leaves and stems of woody plants) makes up on average 44% of a white-tailed deer’s diet in the spring; 45% in the summer; 38% in the fall; and 91% in the winter.  Think regeneration is only important to foresters and timber companies now?  

As Dwight croons, “Alright…alright…alright…alright, girl, I’m wrong” (BTW - a good song to be familiar with if you are in a relationship with a woman).  Everyone should be excited about little trees!  The more there are, the more deer food is on the ground.  

When survey crews are out counting seedlings, they are not only inventorying trees but checking on the buffet.  Are the trays empty or have they just been refilled?

When foresters are looking at a timber harvest, they must consider regenerating that stand as well as feeding the deer that live there (among other things).  The availability of deer forage will increase 5-10 times following a timber harvest.  Ideally, 700 seedlings 12” or taller/acre are needed to proceed with a forest management action.  I say ideally because site specifics usually alter this.  Regardless, they are considering tomorrow’s forest in light of today’s deer food.

So be happy when you hear the word regeneration.  Without it, foresters AND deer are living on “The Sad Side of Town.”

Jeannine Fleegle
PGC Deer and Elk Section

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