COLUMBUS, OH - Thousands of trees killed or severely damaged during an ice storm last year at Dean State Forest in Lawrence County will be removed by helicopter next week, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry. "The February 2003 ice storm devastated much of Dean State Forest," said John Dorka, state forester and chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. "The steps we take today will protect the long-term health of the forest, while assuring much of the downed timber is properly harvested." Special viewing areas will be established at the forest for public observation of the unique harvesting method, which is expected to start February 23 and continue for several days. Signs will be posted at the forest entrance off State Route 373, directing people to designated viewing areas. All other areas of the forest will remain closed during the salvage operations.
Southern Ohio contractors, using traditional logging practices, already have removed much of the damaged timber. With the value of the remaining timber at risk of deterioration, state foresters opted to award a contract to Ohio Valley Lumber from Piketon for a low-impact helicopter salvage operation.
A Sikorsky S-61 helicopter, capable of lifting 10,000 pounds, is being brought in as part of the massive salvage operation, which emphasizes low-impact techniques to protect soil and the forest floor. Helicopters were successfully used to remove storm-damaged timber from Shawnee State Forest last fall.
According to state foresters, last year's ice storms devastated much of the 2,745-acre forest, toppling tens of thousands of trees and closing local roads and major trail systems for weeks. If left unattended, the downed and damaged trees would decay, setting the stage for possible insect infestations.
"Removing these damaged trees will prevent waste of a usable resource and will create the ideal habitat for natural regeneration of the area's original oak forest," said Dorka. "These forest management projects make the best of an unfortunate situation. Our goal is to protect the resources that remain, and provide an economic benefit to the local community."
The use of helicopters and other low-impact logging techniques also highlights a major component of the Ohio Forest Initiative, a statewide forest management philosophy developed at the request of Governor Bob Taft in 2000.
"The Ohio Forest Initiative promotes environmentally responsible forest management on public and privately owned woodlands in Ohio," said Dorka. Dean State Forest was the first of Ohio's 20 state forests. The property was acquired by the state in 1916 as neglected farmland with few trees. Thanks to wise management, the forest is thriving today. The forest has 10 miles of trails and supports a wide range of recreational opportunities.