Meet Our New Manistee Conservation District Forester

Joshua Shields, the new Outreach Forester for the MCD, was introduced to the club membership last month and gave a first-rate overview of how he and the MCD can help local landowners with the management of their properties. The employment of a new forester by the MCD in great part was a result of the new millage appropriation which was publicly supported by the BBSC.

Josh is a well-qualified professional and we are very pleased that the MCD was able to attract him to our community. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan Technological University in 2004 and earned his Master of Science in Forest Ecology and Management from the same university in 2006. Josh continued his education and in 2013 was awarded his PhD in Forest Ecology from Purdue University. Josh has been working in the field of forestry since 2002 and did private consulting work in forest and ecology services prior to being hired by the MCD, including several years subcontracting his expertise to the State of Michigan. He has also done countless amounts of volunteer work over the years for both private and public parties.

Mr. Shields spoke of two programs that he felt would be of particular interest to local property owners. The first, known as the State of Michigan Qualified Forest Program (QFP), is designed to encourage private forestland owners to manage their land in an economically viable and environmentally sustainable manner. Landowners receive an exemption from local school operating taxes and/or exemptions from the uncapping of the taxable value of the property in the event of a change in ownership. There are prerequisites that must be met by the property before it can be enrolled such as minimum acreage and development of a written plan for management.

Mr. Shields stated that he is not allowed to write the required management plan but can refer landowners to other “Qualified Foresters” who are registered to write these plans for landowners. Josh said that he is always willing to set up an appointment for a free site visit to assess the landowner’s property and determine eligibility for the program.
He stated that there are other programs like the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), offered under the United States Department of Agriculture, with which he is also familiar. He stated the NRCS works with private landowners to help them conserve, maintain and improve their natural resources. The agency emphasizes voluntary, science-based conservation; technical assistance; partnerships; incentive-based programs; and cooperative problem solving at the community level.

Mr. Shields also addressed the “oak wilt disease” which is a deadly fungus that can kill previously healthy trees within a matter of weeks and has now entered Michigan on both private and public lands. It is spread by sap-feeding beetles – also known as “picnic beetles” – that introduce the disease to freshly wounded or trimmed trees. The fungus then quickly moves through the underground root systems that connect entire stands of oak trees, rapidly increasing the impact of one infected tree. Trees in the red oak group – those that have pointy-lobed leaves, such as northern red oak, black oak and pin oak– are most susceptible to the disease. White oaks – those with rounded lobes – are much less susceptible, though they occasionally are also infected.

Josh closed by saying that he is always available to be scheduled to meet with private landowners, or conduct demonstrations, presentations and training sessions pertaining to forestry and other natural topics, to any type of organization group that wishes to hear him speak. However, since his coverage area includes Manistee County, Mason County, and the Western half of Lake County, it is important that anyone wishing his service try to schedule well in advance of the need.

Josh’s office is located in the MCD building located at 8840 Chippewa Hwy, Bear Lake, MI and he can be contacted at the office number of 231-889-9666 or his mobile phone at 989-220-9236.

Thank you, Joshua, for a motivating presentation. We at BBSC look forward to working with you for our next tree planting and conservation class which the club promotes each year for the youth in our local schools.