Although the primeval forest that once covered northern Wisconsin had cast its twilight shadows for eons, loggers and farmers took little more than 100 years to obliterate this vast stand of virgin timber.
“The nearly complete removal of old growth in the late 1800s and early 1900s was an example of unregulated, unsustainable logging that in no way reflects the modern forestry practices that have developed since then,” says Paul DeLong, Wisconsin’s chief state forester.
Today, in Eagle River, Wisconsin, modern forestry is being taught year-round at Trees for Tomorrow (TFT), a nonprofit natural-resources specialty school that played a pivotal role in the restoration of Wisconsin’s northern forests.
Vision of the Future
Mully Taylor, TFT’s founding director and a newspaperman with extensive connections in the paper industry, led renewal efforts that culminated in nine major paper companies sponsoring the establishment of TFT in 1944.
“It really was forward-looking,” says TFT executive director Gail Gilson-Pierce. “Not only could the industry avoid importing pulpwood from Canada, but the reforestation effort would provide local jobs, increase the tax base and encourage tourism.” A mere 20 years later, when the reforestation was considered complete, TFT turned its full attention to natural-resources education.
Now a fully accredited school with a faculty of 11 instructors and a comfortable live-in campus in downtown Eagle River, TFT teaches the benefits of natural-resource management to students as well as teachers K-12. The full-time staff comprises foresters, biologists, resource management specialists and naturalists. Also available at TFT is an Elderhostel® program with craft activities and continuing education for seniors 55 and older.
Among the younger students is a group from northern Illinois that receives financial assistance from the Subaru Foundation. Gilson-Pierce found a natural partner in conservation as the Subaru Foundation eagerly answered her request with matching funds for the Illinois group’s tuition. True to TFT’s founding vision, students as well as vacationers can enjoy the splendor of Wisconsin’s great north woods for generations to come.