Imagine working on a project in the early stages when the goal is for it to take 100 years to complete. Obviously, at some point, you'll have to pass your work off to someone else, perhaps more than once. Yet that's what's going on in a portion of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest in Morgan County.
The goal is to determine how different methods of managing timberland affect not only harvestable timber, but all aspects of the environment, including wildlife and all species imaginable. Since it's such a diverse project, there are a diverse number of groups participating and contributing to the project, all the way from Purdue University Extension to the Nature Conservancy. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is also involved in the experiment, along with a number of other groups.
The premise is to see how the woods ecosystem responds to different systems that either do or don't involve intervention from man, notes Chris Parker, an Extension ag educator in Morgan County. He has helped hosts tours of the project. The entire project involves about 100 acres.
Systems to be compared include everything from leaving the forest in its' natural state and doing nothing, or letting nature take its course, to cutting trees either all at once and seeing how regrowth produces an new environment, to cutting on a different schedule and not removing everything at once.
The project has only been going for less than five years. So it's too early to get meaningful results from an experiment intended to last 100 years. But specialists say they're already learning. From what they've seen so far, there is no right or wrong answer- just different results based upon how you manage the forest property.Learn more about this project in an upcoming issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine.