Publication Details

Paper birch (Wiigwaas) of the Lake States, 1980-2010

Moser, W. Keith; Hansen, Mark H.; Gormanson, Dale; Gilbert, Jonathan; Wrobel, Alexandra; Emery, Marla R.; Dockry, Michael J.

Year Published

2015

Publication

Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-149. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 37 p.

Abstract

Data on paper birch (Betula papyrifera L.; wiigwaas in the Ojibwe language), collected by the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program of the U.S. Forest Service on forested lands in the Great Lakes region (Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) from 1980 through 2010, are reported. Also presented are results and analysis of a supplemental inventory designed to identify the characteristics of paper birch bark that influenced Native American harvesters' evaluation of potential uses (e.g., baskets, canoes). Paper birch has long been an important part of the daily life and culture of the Great Lakes Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) people. The Ojibwe and other Native American tribes of the Upper Midwest signed treaties in 1836, 1837, 1842, and 1854 ceding land ("ceded territories") in northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to the Federal government, but retaining certain rights in the region. To help implement these retained rights on national forests in the ceded territories, member tribes of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and the U.S. Forest Service entered into a memorandum of understanding which, among other things, provides for tribes to regulate their members' harvest of nontimber forest products (including paper birch bark) on national forest lands. The U.S. Forest Service, GLIFWC, and tribal harvesters created a supplement to the FIA inventory protocol to provide a detailed inventory of birch bark characteristics. These data were collected on FIA plots in 2004, 2005, and 2006 in conjunction with the standard forest inventory annual panels. Forest land in the ceded territories contains 65.9 percent of all paper birch trees ≥5 inches diameter at breast height (d.b.h.) and 66.2 percent of the large (≥11 inches d.b.h.) paper birch trees in the Great Lakes region. The number of birch trees has decreased by 49 percent and total bark supply has decreased by 45.5 percent on forest land in the ceded territories since 1980. The proportion of paper birch bark found in the larger diameter trees has increased. The decline in paper birch, both in number and as a proportion of all trees, across the ceded territories should not materially diminish near-term bark harvest in the region as a whole, but may do so in selected locations. But the long-term trend suggests a lack of regeneration and a continued decrease in the total number of trees across the region.

Citation

Moser, W. Keith; Hansen, Mark H.; Gormanson, Dale; Gilbert, Jonathan; Wrobel, Alexandra; Emery, Marla R.; Dockry, Michael J. 2015. Paper birch (Wiigwaas) of the Lake States, 1980-2010. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-149. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 37 p. https://doi.org/10.2737/NRS-GTR-149.

Last updated on: June 18, 2015