This past February, the Peoria County Farm Bureau hosted a woodlands management meeting with our district forester, Barrie McVey. We had a great turnout, as 70 people attended.

There are 16 district foresters in Illinois. The Division of Forest Resources is governed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), whose base is on the state fairgrounds in Springfield. McVey covers seven counties: Peoria, Tazewell, Fulton, McDonough, Warren, Henderson and Hancock. District Forester Randy Timmons covers Woodford, McLean, Marshall, Putnam, Livingston and LaSalle. Their job is to assist and give advice to landowners in timber management.

Buying and Selling Timber
Timber tracts of land are valuable to landowners for several reasons. If there are quality trees, a timber harvest is a tremendous resource. They offer a wildlife habitat and a place for birdwatching. They provide shade and cooler temperatures for livestock; erosion control, as most timber is on rolling land; and a food source, offering walnuts and pecans (from mast trees), or hazelnuts and a variety of berries (from undergrowth shrubs). It’s a setting for mushroom hunting and hunting for the sportsman; a source of firewood; or simply a place to relax and appreciate nature.

If you are considering a timber harvest, there are several things to keep in mind before committing to it. Whenever possible, mark the trees you wish to sell. Put a paint mark four to six feet up the trunk, and another at the base. The diameter of the tree is measured four-and-a-half feet above the ground to help determine whether it is large enough to harvest.

Try to get more than one bid for your timber; multiple sealed bids are the best way to determine a fair price. Be sure to only accept bids on a lump-sum basis—one price for all marked timber, as opposed to a price per tree or per thousand board feet. Insist that successful bidders pay in full before any cutting is conducted. Use a contract, and specify all procedures you want followed prior to signing.

To buy timber in Illinois, buyers must be licensed with the state. Require proof of license. A list of licensed buyers—nearly 400 of them, including several in Peoria County and surrounding counties—can be found at dnr.illinois.gov/timberbuyers.

Controlling Invasive Species
Landowners should note that some tree and plant species are classified as invasive, and can potentially damage the value of a forest. One of the most invasive is bush honeysuckle. Others include autumn olive, which is a bush, and soft maple trees, as their vigorous growth and shade-tolerant characteristics inhibit the establishment of more desired trees like oak, hickory and walnut.

How did we get bush honeysuckle in the Midwest? Like so many invasive plants and insects, they were imported from other countries. They have been widely planted as an ornamental shrub—I'm sure many of you have them on your own property. They are one of the first woody bushes to leaf out in the spring, and will be the last to lose their leaves in the fall. They reproduce primarily by seed, and their widespread distribution is aided by birds, which eat the red berries in the fall and disperse them over long distances via their droppings.

There are several reasons why this species is so destructive to a native forest. First, they have vigorous growth. I've seen them grow four to five feet in a year if they are competing for sunlight with neighboring vegetation. They create a dense foliage, displacing native species by shading the forest floor and preventing the establishment of other young tree seedlings. Their growth depletes moisture and nutrients for neighboring plants, and some studies suggest they produce a toxin that inhibits the growth of competitors. Left unchecked, bush honeysuckle can eventually create a monoculture from what was once a diversified forest of trees and other plants.

How is bush honeysuckle controlled? First, you will want to control the mature plants that are producing berries to prevent them from spreading. Young plants (two to three years old) can be easily pulled by hand, as they have a shallow, fibrous rooting system. Be sure the roots do not break, or new sprouts can develop from the remaining root stock.

The most effective control method is by herbicide, although this is labor-intensive. Larger plants can be cut at ground level, and the stump completely covered with a 20% glyphosate (Roundup) solution. Smaller shrubs can be sprayed with a 5% glyphosate solution, but once again, you will want to cover the entire plant to prevent regrowth.

So where can you purchase high-quality native plant species? Locally, the Peoria County Soil & Water Conservation District has a tree/bush seedling sale each year. Although it's too late this year, as tree orders were picked up in April, anyone can order through this annual sale. The deadline for orders is usually mid-March. There is always a wide variety of good tree and plant seedlings available, including spruce, pine, fir, oak, walnut, persimmon, sycamore, redbud, dogwood and hazelnut. The District can be contacted at (309) 671-7040 to get on their mailing list. iBi