How do I manage for oak?

Before you’re ready to begin managing for oak, you may be wondering why you would want to.

Why manage for oak?

White oak acorns
Acorns are an important food for many species of wildlife.

Attention to oak species is particularly important in Southwest Wisconsin. Many people recognize the value of oak trees for furniture and home building, and oaks are needed by many species of wildlife.

Oak acorns, for example, are a key food source for animals that migrate long distances in the fall or spend the winter hibernating. Oak trees provide important nesting and shelter habitat as well.

But oaks have needs, too. Having oak trees on your property today does not guarantee they will be there for the next generation.

Oaks are in decline

You may observe a bounty of acorn production in the fall and conclude, “Oaks are doing just fine on my land.” Yet, while seed production is obviously important, without the right conditions those acorns may never grow into mature trees in your woods.

Across Southwest Wisconsin, oak species are in decline. Timber harvests alone remove approximately 30% more oak than is replaced each year. Oak trees frequently are not replacing themselves; instead they are being replaced by more shade-tolerant trees like maple and basswood.

So how can you help? The tough thing for many landowners to accept is that they may need to cut oak trees down in order to secure oak’s future.

Next: Which harvest methods benefit oak?