National Forest Foundation

Great Lakes Windstorm Recovery

Great Lakes Windstorm Recovery


In the Great Lakes region, extreme weather events can lead to significant deforestation. Over the past few years, we have worked to reforest parts of Wisconsin's Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest impacted by strong winds, and improve habitat for wildlife and visitors.

Tucked in the northwoods of Wisconsin’s Great Lakes region, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest holds dozens of lakes, streams and rivers, offering a bountiful landscape to both visitors and wildlife. The forest’s Spider Lake area features diverse vegetation, layered amid swamp hardwoods, and hosts a variety of birds and other wildlife. The area is an established Research Natural Area, a protected site established by the Forest Service, and houses the origins of two important tributaries, the Chippewa and Marengo Rivers.

Many of the trees we plant through our 50 Million For Our Forests campaign support wildfire recovery, especially in the West, but in the Great Lakes region, there is often another reason: extreme weather events. In the summer of 2016, a severe storm caused flash flooding followed by strong winds, affecting more than 3,000 acres of Chequamegon – Nicolet National Forest, including the Spider Lake region. Much of the storm damage occurred in oak and aspen stands, species that are relatively short-lived and can naturally regenerate when exposed to adequate sunlight. Red pines were also affected, but this long-lived species does not naturally regenerate as easily as oak and aspen. To hasten forest recovery and re-establish historical stand diversity, we planted more than 170,000 red pine seedlings across nearly 250 acres in 2018 and 2019. We will continue our efforts, planting a mix of native pines, in 2020.

Damaged and downed trees after the storm.

This project offers an example of the expertise and science-based approach to forest management that our planting partners at the US Forest Service employ on all reforestation projects. When evaluating sites for potential plantings, agency silviculturists carefully consider natural regeneration and non-action in combination with active management for overall forest health. Additionally, for projects like this, wind-blown downed and snapped trees can be more susceptible to pests and fungi, yet woody debris and snags provide habitat diversity and support the overall health of the ecosystem. Our partners work to find the right balance in deciding when to act, and when to let nature take its course.

Like all of our tree-planting projects, our efforts on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest provides a significant carbon sequestration benefit. This multi-year effort will also enhance habitat for wildlife and improve the health of the forest, enriching the landscape for all who visit this unique part of Wisconsin.