Nov 04

Ayres Associates helping Menominee Tribal Enterprises track forest health

The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin realized long ago that their future depended on the forest. With lands totaling 235,000 acres, the Tribe began practicing forest management over 150 years ago and in 1908 created what is now known as Menominee Tribal Enterprises (MTE) to manage their lands.  To this day, forestry remains the backbone of its economy.

MTE_colorThe fungal disease oak wilt is a serious problem infecting the mature oak stands of the Menominee forest, posing significant potential impacts to the tribe’s economy.  In an effort to arrest the spread of the disease, MTE has a program prepared to rapidly deal with oak wilt pockets as soon as they are identified.  Given that Menominee has thousands of acres of oak trees, field surveys end up being very costly and time consuming.  By working together with Ayres Associates, MTE determined that aerial imagery can serve as an effective tool for quickly and efficiently surveying vast areas beyond what can be covered by a road-side study.


Forest health staff analyzes the imagery by overlaying known oak wilt pockets on top of recent imagery acquired in the late summer.  Any newly infected trees can be detected in the true-color images, appearing in shades of brown, while older (dead) oaks will be visible as ‘gray ghosts’.  When found, a staff member will place a point in the GIS database and upload the data to an ArcPad project on a data recorder.  Then a forester can conduct a visit to the site to determine whether or not the dead tree can be attributed to oak wilt.  All positively identified pockets are scheduled for treatment.

MTE_cirMTE is now implementing workflows to incorporate color infrared (CIR) imagery into their analysis. Using CIR imagery will make tree health even more apparent to foresters reviewing the data.  Using Ayres Associate’s calibrated multi-spectral photogrammetric cameras to collect and analyze digital CIR aerial imagery will add another effective tool to map assets, track change, and analyze systemic health patterns in the forest.

MTE’s primary mission is to provide for the Tribe while simultaneously planning for and maintaining a sustainable forest.  Over the course of decades, they have aggressively pushed advanced management techniques to provide sustained timber yields.  With the advancement of diseases like oak wilt and emerald ash borer, color and CIR aerial imagery have become an even more vital tool for cost effectively survey these essential lands.


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