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42 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST Vol. 54
BURT BARNES’S INFLUENCE ON FOREST MANAGEMENT IN MICHIGAN
Stephen J. Sjogren Hiawatha National Forest USDA Forest Service St. Ignace, MI 49781 firstname.lastname@example.org
Philip W. Huber Daniel M. Kashian Huron-Manistee National Forests Department of Biological Sciences USDA Forest Service Wayne State University Cadillac, MI 49601 Detroit, MI 48202 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Burt began his career at the University of Michigan in 1964 as a professor of forestry. Like many forestry professors of the time, he was expected to have background knowledge of silviculture and forest management, and he was asked to teach various courses in those areas. Throughout his career Burt considered these fields to be interesting and particularly necessary to understand for the sake of interpreting and studying forest history and investigating how ecosys- tems responded to past activities. But they were not his passion; he was more in- terested in natural areas than heavily managed areas and in understanding ecosystems rather than manipulating them. He cringed at clearcutting but mar- veled at the ability of a forest ecosystem to respond to it.
Burt saw that his world view—that landscape ecosystems, consisting not only of species, but also of systems of climate, soil, and landforms, should be the focus of study and management rather than species alone—could be realized as agen- cies such as the US Forest Service (USFS) and the Michigan Department of Nat- ural Resources (MDNR) moved more towards natural areas management begin- ning in the 1980s. Burt and his students had begun to develop detailed ecological classifications of pristine landscapes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, for example at the Huron Mountain Club, Sylvania Wilderness Area, and the McCormick Ex- perimental Forest, but he quickly thereafter began to pursue the development of such a classification system across large areas of public land. He began to push his ideas about landscape ecosystems and ecological classification more strongly to the USFS, and his basic approach and ideas facilitated the classification and in- ventory system that was developed for the Huron-Manistee National Forests (HMNF) in the early 1990s. Burt’s graduate students also worked to develop local classifications of riparian ecosystems, wetland ecosystems, and old-growth forests during the 1990s. Moreover, the current Hiawatha Forest Plan, which guides all management activities on the Hiawatha National Forest, uses elements of Burt’s ecological classification system as a basis for determining natural suc- cessional pathways and for prescribing appropriate silvicultural treatments. He
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was a pioneer in bringing a landscape ecosystem approach to the United States and the USFS, and his approach to developing hierarchical ecological site classi- fication systems continues to be used by USFS managers all across the country.
Burt was also interested in old-growth forests in Michigan and hoped to assist USFS and MDNR managers in the process of old-growth designation. Burt ad- vised a group of graduate students at the University of Michigan’s School of Nat- ural Resources on a master’s project in the mid-1980s that examined in detail a tract of old-growth red pine (Pinus resinosa) on state-managed land in Crawford County. Burt was also a consultant in the 1990s for the old-growth team on the HMNF, where he helped to identify the appropriate mix of forest types incorpo- rated into the HMNF old-growth design, and he lent his insight to the formula- tion of old-growth management guidelines. Today, 173,000 acres of the HMNF is designated as old-growth forest.
Perhaps Burt’s longest-lasting influence on both the USFS and MDNR was how he approached the management of the federally endangered Kirtland’s war- bler. Since Kirtland’s warbler is highly dependent upon jack pine (Pinus banksiana) forests of a specific structure and age, using forest ecology and man- agement to manage warbler habitat on National and State Forests is critical in re- covering the species. At the urging of one of his former students, Dr. Sylvia Tay- lor, who at that time was with the MDNR, Burt began to apply his landscape ecosystem approach to this endangered songbird in the late 1980s to understand and predict warbler occurrence across the 1980 Mack Lake Burn on the Huron National Forest. Working with the USFS beginning in the mid-1980s, he and a team of students developed an initial ecological classification of the burned landscape that showed the range of landscape ecosystems used by the warbler and that demonstrated how understanding those ecosystems could aid manage- ment. This work was continued by Burt and additional graduate students throughout the 1990s and continues to be influential today. When the Kirtland’s warbler population began to expand into the Upper Peninsula in the late 1990s, Burt dispatched graduate students to meet with one of us (SJS) near Manistique to view Kirtland’s warbler habitat in the Upper Peninsula, take some soil sam- ples, and discuss research and management opportunities for Kirtland’s warbler there. It was one significant step that eventually led the Hiawatha National For- est to treat Kirtland’s warbler habitat as a strong consideration in its management strategy for jack pine ecosystems.
Of course, the lifelong relationships that Burt developed with his students— both undergraduate and graduate—helped him to influence forest management in Michigan, particularly when those students themselves became influential in forest management (Figure 1). Two of the authors of this report (SJS and PWH) were former undergraduate students of Burt’s at the School of Natural Resources who found careers in the USFS and who helped to incorporate his work and ideas into that agency.
I was a fledgling forestry student at the School of Natural Resources when I first met the dynamic Dr. Barnes on the first day of Woody Plants in the fall se-
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FIGURE 1. Burt Barnes conducting a soil texture-by-feel test with Phil Huber (striped shirt, center), Steve Sjogren (behind Barnes, left) and other US Forest Service forest and wildlife managers near Mio, Michigan, July 1996. Photo by Dan Kashian.
mester of 1976. It was a time when forestry, nature, and natural resource man- agement all came together and began to emerge into a passion and a life calling for me. Over the course of that semester I spent long fall afternoons with my fel- low students and Burt, trekking across various woodlands in the Ann Arbor area, learning about the diversity and habitat relationships of several hundred plant species. Burt had a special way of making these field trips fascinating and fun, generating a sense of importance in knowing the flora, and perhaps more impor- tantly, why a species grows where it does. I was so excited by the class and Burt’s approach to teaching that I really felt I was where I was supposed to be, learning forestry and forest ecology from the best. This semester with Burt launched my 34-year (and counting) natural resource management career.
But Burt’s influence on me was not just through his courses. Our paths were to cross again several years after I graduated. In the early 1990s I was working as a wildlife biologist for the Hiawatha National Forest, and I was thrilled to see Burt at a Kirtland’s Warbler Recovery Team meeting in Grayling. He had a won- derful knack for building a bridge between research and management and strove to inform resource managers with meaningful research. His communication style showed how well he understood the challenges of applied science and resource management. Even now, Burt’s influence on me, and on many other biologists, botanists, and foresters, continues. Over my career as a resource manager, first in forestry, then in wildlife, my time with Burt left me with a clear understanding that ecosystems are bigger than the sum of their individual parts and that indi-
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vidual ecosystem components are interdependent. I have tried to maintain a holistic ecological approach to management over the course of my career. Burt’s mentorship prompted me to devote my life to working in the woods and fields of northern Michigan and to building a career around ecosystem management.
Similar to Stephen’s experience, my first encounter with Burt was in Woody Plants at the School of Natural Resources. Like most students, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and was not enjoying the slew of required courses I was taking. In Woody Plants, I remember being quite surprised at how unconventional his lectures were, particularly his informative and amusing slide shows of his adventures in various parts of the US—beautiful places that I had never been to or even knew existed. His presentations were interesting and in- spiring and always incorporated humor. In the field, he would travel with his stu- dents and take the time to make sure they understood the ecological relationships between the soils and the trees growing on them . . . by digging six-foot deep holes wherever he went. In forest ecology I had finally found a subject I was ac- tually interested in, an expert in the subject matter, and a professor who had a sense of humor and who made learning fun. I was hooked on Burt and what he had to say. His passion and excitement were contagious.
After graduating from Michigan, I started working for the USFS on the HMNF. I was fortunate to continue to work with and learn from Burt throughout my career and to work with his graduate students in the Mack Lake Burn area. After a long career as a wildlife biologist for the USFS, I realized that what I know, believe, and love about forests, wildlife, and forest management came from that grey-haired man and his holistic vision of the natural world. With ever increasing demands on our forest ecosystems, I will continue to practice and preach forest ecology according to Burt.