Cleanup, logging still taking place in Oconto Co. after 2019 storms

January 26, 2021

Eric Peterson, Fox 11


OCONTO COUNTY (WLUK) -- A year and a half after damaging storms raced through the Northwoods, cleanup continues, that includes work being done near the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower in Oconto County.

On a section of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, logging crews have been busy for about a month, cutting, clearing and salvaging timber on the 400-acre site.

"It's harder on equipment. It's generally slower because obviously the landscape they have to move through," said Adrian Ackley, U.S. Forest Service Forester.

Ackley says frozen ground supports the heavy equipment, and keeps it from damaging the forest floor. Officials say the effort is part of the ongoing work to clean up after the July 2019 storm which damaged about 100,000 acres of trees on the National Forest.

Why is it so important to clean it up?

"The first and foremost reason is public safety. It can be quite a fire hazard if it stays on the ground, and that's what we're trying to do," said Ackley.

Ackley says much of the wood will be sold to pulp mills, or cut into lumber.

Project leaders say the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower is a popular recreation site, and while many of these trees will be gone, crews are working to preserve what they are able in the area.

"To me, it's a shocker. When I came through today, it's going to be a different landscape, even for people to view, but again, it's still going to be a beautiful sight to see. It will be worth the trip still," said Samantha Boucher, Oconto County Tourism Manager.

"It is going to look drastically different than before the storm. There's no doubt about it. The landscape has changed, it will look different for quite some years," said Ackley.

Ackley says work should be complete by the time the tower opens for the season in the spring.

He says in the area near the tower, some trees will be replanted, but a lot of the regeneration will be left up to nature.

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