By Julie Miedtke, UMN Extension Itasca County
I often wonder what motivates people to work on their land. Sometimes a conversation with a friend or neighbor may spark an interest. People can be inspired by a motivational speaker, a book with glossy images or filled with facts. Recently I had a conversation with Oren and Andrea Danson and learned that they were inspired by a postcard from the Itasca Soil and Water Conservation District. The little postcard asked if they were interested in improving wildlife habitat and managing their land. The landowner survey card led to a conversation and a Woodland Stewardship Management Plan. In a recent conversation Oren said “Our Woodland Stewardship Management Plan has definitely influenced our lives.”
Oren grew up on the family farm south of Grand Rapids that was purchased by his father in the 1920’s. In 1974, Oren was able to purchased 40 acres from his Mom. At that time, the Danson’s were absentee landowners and the small field was used for hay production for a number of years. The land idled until the management plan was written in 1998.
In 2001, the Dansons harvested over mature Aspen and Balsam Fir working with a consulting forester. Reiger Logging harvested the timber that generated substantial income. In 2002, the land was enrolled in the Sustainable Forest Incentive Act (SFIA) which has helped ease the burden of property taxes.
Oren commented on the positive aspects of having a Woodland Stewardship Plan and the opportunity to network with natural resource professionals and that he has enjoyed learning from them. He shared his experience of working with the District Conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) about planting a couple of rows of trees in the field. He was then connected to Quintin Legler who helps folks with management activities.
Quintin and Oren spent time walking the land and talking about planting trees. Oren shared his conversation with Quintin stating “Why should I plant trees? I am sixty four years old!! Quintin simply told me that it was a chance for me to leave my legacy and because taking care of your land is the right thing to do. That little conversation hit the nail right on the head for me.”
In 2004 the entire field was machine planted with 14,000 Norway Pine. The seedlings were monitored and many were lost during recent droughts and the field was replanted twice. Oren eliminated competing grass, investing in a three wheeler to literally run up and down the rows applying a herbicide.
The Danson’s enjoy working with their hands. Andrea creates fanciful quilts and artful handwork, and Oren is a woodworker. Oren has crafted many projects with wood harvested from his parents land that has been sawn, planed to create heirlooms for his children and grand children. Oren said, “That way the kids can have a piece of the land even if they are living in distant places.”
Reprinted with permission from the January 2009 Itasca Woodlands newsletter. To learn more about the Itasca Woodlands Committee, which publishes the newsletter, call Sheila at (218) 327-7486.