Timber sales get colorful and wacky names | News, Sports, Jobs
By Kathleen Lavey
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
LANSING — An important job for foresters at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is to mark the boundaries of timber sales that will take place on state forest lands.
They spray paint the trees to do it.
And that’s where one of the wood sales Patrick Mohney was scoring a few years ago got his unique name.
Mohney’s black lab, Betty, loved going into the woods with him, back when foresters were allowed to take their dogs to work in the field. But Betty would often rush past Mohney on the runway and get in the spray paint line of fire.
The unique name of the sale lives on in the historical records of MNR’s Forest Resources Division: “Painted Dog Aspen.”
There are plenty of other wood selling names that are just as colorful, inventive, or just plain wacky.
Some of the current timber selling names include the “Ghostbuster Cup”, “Scrupulous Aspen” and “72 decibel mix” in the Traverse City Forest Management Unit and “Pronto Pup Pine” in the Pigeon River Country State Forest.
The folks at Gaylord may have thought of the office kitchenette when naming the “Teak Kettle Mix” the “Coffee Maker Mix” and “Mixed pine for microwaves.”
Creatively naming timber sales is a tradition handed down throughout the history of logging. A good name makes it possible to identify the type of wood to be harvested (the “trembling” part of Painted Dog Aspen, for example) or its relative geographical location.
While some government entities that sell timber have boring naming conventions that only include locations and numbers, MNR foresters have more leeway to follow tradition and exercise their creativity.
“It’s been going on since I’ve been here, and long before that”, said Mohney, who now works as director of the Forest Resources Division’s Gladwin unit. “Some foresters are like, ‘I just threw a name over there.’ But some of them have given it a lot of thought.
Sometimes an entire office will jump to a theme. A Disney frenzy in the Shingleton unit led to names like “Little Mermaple”, “Sprucetopia” and “Maple upside down.” A pirate theme gave names such as “Great Rollaway Treasures.”
Mohney admits he also has themed selling names. He remembers a season of wood marking in excessively wet weather.
“My boots were always wet, so there was a whole year of sales that I titled after soups,” he said. “Another year was all the music artists I liked.”
In 2020, the DNR prepared 54,222 acres of state and national forest timber for sale, a tiny fraction of the state’s timber properties of just under 4 million acres. Harvested areas provide habitat for many types of wildlife that cannot thrive in deep woods, such as grouse and elk.
That same year, the DNR planted 1.8 million trees and is working to facilitate the natural regeneration of forests that have been harvested. MNR’s forestry practices are certified as sustainable by two external organizations.
Foresters have a lot to remember.
Tori Irving, who works at DNR’s Shingleton Field Unit in the Upper Peninsula, said that in addition to allowing for creativity, naming conventions serve foresters as a memory booster, since timber sales planning has take place a few years in advance.
“As foresters, we touch thousands of acres of land whether it’s an inventory or a timber sale,” she says. “The only way to remember it is to use something funny that happened or something unique to the area. You lost your boot in a swamp or your snowmobile is buried.
It is important to remember the type of forest, as foresters serve as experts in assisting loggers who may be interested in bidding for the sale of the timber and carrying out the logging.
“You have all the data and the inventory, everything is on paper”, said Irving. “The name helps bring a memory so you can see this forest. You are the expert they ask for on this.
A few unwritten rules: Keep wood sale names clean and harmless.
Oh, and one more: “Name them something you can say with a straight face in court,” said Irving.
One of Irving’s selling names reflects the somewhat miserable conditions when she worked in the forest: “Circus of Deer Ticks.” She named another “Hyland Games”, which is both the name of a road in the sales area and a nod to his Scottish ancestry.
Another of Irving’s memorable names was the “Hardwood Horror Story.” The name did not relate to the woods themselves.
“The stand was good” she says. “It was a mix of northern hardwoods and beech. It’s not like it’s a nightmare to cut or access.
But Irving was listening to a scary audiobook while she worked, which set her up for unintended jumps.
“Every time a branch broke, I panicked” she says.
She named another “The Sale of the Swamp King” after a book called “The Swamp King’s Daughter” by Karen Dionne, a mystery about a kidnapper who lives – where else? – in the woods and swamps of the Upper Peninsula.
“Lumberjacks asked us: ‘Where does this name come from?'” said Irving. “It’s kind of a cool conversation starter.
“It boosts morale and makes things interesting,” he said. “We have found that it sparks conversation. Producers bid on a sale and say, “What the hell?'”