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Swanton: Thinning of forest adds plants, hardwoods, animals, book funds

SWANTON - When it comes to a Trees to Textbooks program, the story is in the understory.

Now that some pine trees have been cleared from portions of the Maumee State Forest, more sunlight is reaching the forest floor. More native plants are popping up, and more wild animals are living there.

In the last two years, the Swanton Local School District has received about $33,000 from the sale of timber from the forest. In addition, Fulton County and Swancreek Township have received several thousand dollars through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Forestry's Trees to Textbook program.

Through the program, a percentage of revenues generated from state forest management activities, such as timber sales, are paid to the local county, township, and school district in which the activity took place.

In 2004, Swanton schools received $12,878, but the amount climbed to nearly $19,500 last year. Swanton Superintendent Neil Weber said about half of the money from 2005 has been put into textbook purchases, and the remainder will be used for paper purchases and classroom supplies.

Last year Fulton County and Swancreek Township each received $9,735 from the program. The total given to entities in the county was about $38,945.

This year entities in neighboring Henry County will receive money from the program. Plans call for the removal of about 4,800 tons of material from the Maumee State Forest in that county. Targeted for removal are 49 to 58-year-old stands of red and white pine trees that need thinning.

Similar thinning has occurred in the state forest in Fulton County in the last few years. As a result of the removal of the pines, natural hardwood rejuvenation in the understory is occurring, said Gregg Maxfield, the Division of Forestry's district forest manager for northwest Ohio.

When the land was purchased by the state, pine trees were planted to stabilize the area that included sand knobs, he explained. Where the forest was thick with pines, "there was not much natural woodland habitat and not much wildlife," he said. However, that is changing. As native hardwood trees and plants come back, the forest is becoming more attractive to rabbits, wild turkeys, pheasants, and other animals.

Thinning of red and white pines, many of which were in declining health, has taken place since 2001, Mr. Maxfield said. Last year, more pine trees were thinned over a larger area than in previous years, resulting in higher payments to the schools and governmental entities. About 80 acres were thinned in 2005.

About 90 percent of the timber that is harvested goes to pulp and paper production, he said.

Not all pine trees will be removed from the forest. Some areas with nice white pines will be preserved. "People like to see the large trees," Mr. Maxfield said.

The 3,100-acre state forest is in portions of Fulton, Henry, and Lucas counties.

Contact Janet Romaker

at: jromaker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6006.

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