History of Nicolet National Forest, 1928-1976



Today, managers of the Nicolet National Forest must work to balance the boundless needs and wants of an ever-growing Nation with a finite natural resource base.

Since 1960, Congress has passed numerous pieces of legislation which gave guidance to the Forest Service on how best to meet those needs. The Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act of 1960, formalized the Forest Service's long unspoken management philosophy — management of the Nation's renewable resources (wood, water, forage, wildlife and recreation) in such a way as to provide for the greatest good, of the greatest number in the long run.

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) followed a decade of unprecendented concern for the natural environment. An expanded Forest Service land use planning program was just one of the many off-shoots of NEPA.


Planning has been an integral part of Nicolet National Forest management since the late 1930's. By that time, custodial and fire protection activities had done much to restore the forests and they were no longer the number one concern. Rather, the demand for pulpwood and sawtimber from the second growth timber stands dictated a need for more comprehensive planning, if an allowable cut was to be established and the Forest managed for sustained yield.

The first land and timber survey on the Nicolet Forest was initiated in 1937. The survey included timber and soil types, timber growth, fire hazard conditions, areas requiring planting and needed timber species. Also estimated, were timber stand improvement and insect and disease control needs. The first aerial photos of the Nicolet National Forest were made in 1938, for inventory purposes. Once the photos were interpreted, ground points were checked, plots marked for accuracy, timber yields estimated, acreage of timber types determined and a final summary drawn up. Also considered in these early planning efforts were recreation demands, wildlife needs, and watershed protection projects. This information, along with management suggestions, made up the first real comprehensive timber management plan for the Nicolet Forest.

The next timber management plan was prepared for the period of 1953-1963, and was much improved. Compartments were designated on each Forest district, and a schedule for compartment examinations was set up. The plan also gave consideration to timber types, size classes, growth, planting needs, recreation possibilities, transportation, resident population, forest protection, land surveys and forest industries.

A new timber management plan was developed to cover the years 1964-1975. In addition to the areas given consideration by earlier planning efforts, this document included road and waterfront zones, wild and scenic areas and necessary wildlife openings.

Currently, Nicolet National Forest managers are in the second phase of a 3 part regional planning scheme. A team of individuals, representing a multiple of land management professions, has been appointed and charged with the responsibility of putting together a long-range Forest Plan. This plan will contain specific land management direction for the Forest's overall natural resource base, and will reflect Service-wide policies and Regional direction as outlined in the Lake States Area Guide. The third and final phase of the land use planning process is the development of plans for individual Forest units. A unit is a section on the Forest which has a unique set of resources or which can fulfill a specific need.

Although early Nicolet National Forest planning efforts emphasized timber, today's plans give equal recognition to all of the Forest's resource systems. The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resource Planning Act of 1974 recognizes six specific resource systems: outdoor recreation and wilderness; wildlife and fish habitat; range; timber; land and water; and, human and community development. This Act calls on the Forest Service to make an assessment of all of the Nation's forest, range and related lands, public and privately owned. The first assessment was made in 1974, and is to be updated in 1979, and again every 10 years. Based on the findings of the assessment, the Forest Service is then responsible for developing a long-range management program for the National Forest System, Research and State and Private activities. These programs cover a 45-year period and are updated every 5 years. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford signed into law the National Forest Management Act. This Act gave new policy direction to the Forest Service. When signing the bill, President Ford spoke of the importance of the legislation. He stated, "It encourages balanced consideration of all resources in the land management process."

Broad policies were outlined for land-management planning, timber management actions and public participation in Forest Service decision making. All in all, the NFMA strengthens RPA and points to systematic congressional review of public land management activities.

These changing be reflected on the programs and Forest national trends, projected needs and new policies will Nicolet National Forest through its land management level planning activities.


The timber resource on the Nicolet National Forest has come a long way in the last 40-45 years. The once burned-over areas have, for the most part, been reforested. Today, some of these plantations are being thinned for the second time. The cut-over hardwood slashings, known as maple brush in the 1930's are now pole-size stands of young hardwoods. This, of course, is due to the surveillance and protection of these areas from fire, insects and disease. Aspen was once considered a weed tree species, but today it is managed for its fiber. It is easily renewed through natural regeneration and has a short rotation. The Nicolet Forest has a current allowable cut of 50 million board feet a year, compared with only a few cords for the first wood sale back in 1931.


The Hugo Sauer Nursery played an important role in the replenishing of the Forest's timber resource. The Nursery was started in 1931, under the auspices of the Federated Kiwanis Clubs. Hugo Sauer, for whom the nursery is named, was chairman of the Wisconsin—Upper Michigan Kiwanis District's Conservation and Reforestation Committee in 1931 and 1932. He spearheaded a fund drive which resulted in several thousand dollars being donated to the Nicolet National Forest for the purpose of establishing a nursery.

G. Willard Jones was the first nurseryman, and he supervised much of the construction of the seedling beds, sprinkling system and buildings. The Nursery expanded rapidly, until it covered approximately 125 acres. By 1935, it was producing 8 million seedlings annually. The Nursery was located southwest of County Trunk K, about 4 miles northwest of Rhinelander.

The Forest Service leased the Nursery to Wisconsin in the mid-1940's. The State operated a portion of the Nursery until 1974, when it phased-out seedling production.


Today, the Hugo Sauer Nursery site is used in part by the Nicolet National Forest, the Forest Service's Lake States Research Experiment Station and the State of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin uses several of the buildings for a tree distribution center, a district warehouse and storage areas; the Nicolet Forest has adopted some of the area for daily Forest uses; and, the Lake States Research Experiment Station has headquartered the Institute of Forest Genetics here. The Institute has greenhouses, laboratories and offices. Much of the area is used for field tests under the tree improvement program.


Water is another of the five renewable resources listed under the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act, and it is an element of the land and water resource system under RPA. The Eastern Continental Divide is located on the Nicolet National Forest. Many tributaries leading into the Mississippi River, and Lake Michigan make the area an important watershed. In addition, the 235 miles of streams, 607 miles of rivers and 34,613 acres of lakes are vital to the Forest's recreational resource.

A systematic and regular water monitoring system helps guarantee that all land management activities are executed in such a way as to prevent damage of the water resource.

As for the land resource, the Nicolet Forest boundaries encompass a gross area of more than 973,000 acres, of which approximately 652,000 are federally owned. Aside from the general Forest activities which occur here, more than 300 special use permits have been issued to businesses, communities and individuals.


In recent years, the wildlife community has become of great concern to man. Gradually, man has come to realize that the inability of a wildlife species to adapt and cope with the changing world, might, in fact, be signalling his own demise. Thus, there is a sincere effort to help all wildlife gain a stronger hold on life.

A successful wildlife management program on the 1.5 million acres of National Forest land in Wisconsin depends on cooperation between the Forest Service and the State, because while the Forest Service is responsible for habitat management, the State is in charge of population controls. The Sikes Act of 1973 encourages greater Federal-State cooperation in the area of wildlife habitat management by guaranteeing Federal funding for cooperative programs.

A cooperative wildlife habitat management program was agreed on between the State of Wisconsin and the Forest Service in the Fall of 1976. The overall objective of the 5 year program is, "to improve the ecological diversity of the forest environment so as to meet the habitat needs of all wildlife species associated with the forest habitat." Program activities are concerned with forest habitat management, aquatic resources and endangered and threatened wildlife.


Recently, on the Nicolet National Forest, several special wildlife projects have been conducted. The fisher was reintroduced on the Forest, and according to surveys is doing well. The success of the fisher project led to the reintroduction of the Pine Marten during the 1974-75 winter. Both of these animals were once found in abundance in the area, but man's activities forced a drastic decline in their populations. Today, they are reestablishing themselves in their original territory.


The recreation resource on the National Forests presents a multitude of complex and conflicting management alternatives. The types of recreation facilities and degree of development in demand by the public vary for each individual. On the Nicolet National Forest, the visitor has many recreation experiences to choose from, from visiting a wild area to camping in one of 23 developed campgrounds. In between these two extremes, are facilities for self-guided nature walks, auto tours, picnicking, boating, swimming, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, and skiing. And, all at recreation areas which have been developed with the visitors enjoyment and safety in mind. In 1975, people spent more than 15.3 million hours recreating on the Nicolet National Forest.



But, people are more than just consumers of the Nation's natural resources. They are, in fact, a resource themselves — the human and community resource.

One national program that recognizes the renewability of the human resource is Job Corps. The Job Corps program was established under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. This legislation sought "to mobilize the human and financial resources of the Nation to combat poverty." Job Corps was created to, "prepare for the responsibilities of citizenship, and to increase the employability of young men and women aged 16 to 21 by providing them, in rural and urban residential centers, with education, vocational training, useful work experience, including work directed toward the conservation, of natural resources."

The Forest Service was only one of several agencies selected to participate in the Job Corps program. In 1965, the Blackwell Job Corps Center was established on the Nicolet Forest's Laona District, on the same site that had supported a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp some 30 years earlier. The Blackwell Civilian Conservation Center is located 1 mile north of the small community of Blackwell, on Forest County Highway H.

The first Blackwell Center staff consisted of: Roger Johnson, center director; Milo Stefan, deputy director for the work program; George Zarcoff, deputy director of the education and corpsman supervisor program; and, William Wolff, Jr., administrative officer. Eventually, the staff grew to 42 people.



The early program at the Blackwell Center revolved around helping enrollees finish their high school education, and repairing and reestablishing the Forest's natural resources. Reforestation, timber stand improvement, rehabilitation of spring ponds, recreation area construction and repair, fire prevention and community assistance projects were the major activities handled by the corpsmen. The program began changing in 1968, and vocational training in the building and construction trades was emphasized. The new program also benefits the Nicolet Forest, and has resulted in construction of new recreation areas and administrative site improvements.

Today, Blackwell has seven skill training programs, conducted by Forest Service employees and contractors, including four construction trade unions. Included in the Center's training roster are carpentry, heavy equipment operation, painting, welding, masonry, cooking and building maintenance. The Center is equipped to handle approximately 200 resident corpsmen, and has a 55-member staff. Of the young men who completed a training program and left the Center between July 1, 1974, and June 30, 1975, 70 percent were placed in jobs; 25 percent went on to further their education; and, 5 percent entered the military.

The Center Directors have played a major role in helping the Nicolet National Forest's Job Corps Program become a success. Center Directors include:

1965—1966Roger Johnson
1966—1967John Pager
1967—1969Thomas Fulk
1969—1970Edmund Vandermillen
1970—1973William Erickson
1973—Harold Godlevske

On August 13, 1970, a "cousin" of the Civilian Conservation Corps was born when President Richard Nixon signed Public Law 91-378. This Act established a 3 year pilot summer employment program for young people, ages 15 through 18. The main objective of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) was to gainfully employ young people in a conservation, work-education program on public lands and waters which were administered by the Departments of Agriculture and Interior. It was hoped that the YCC would "create an opportunity for understanding and appreciation of the Nation's natural environment and heritage . . . and further the development and maintenance of the natural resources of the United States by the youth, upon whom will fall the ultimate responsibility for maintaining and managing these resources for the American people."

The YCC Program proved so successful, that Congress expanded it and made it a permanent national endeavor on September 3, 1974. The new legislation authorized $60 million annually for the Youth Conservation Corps.


The Nicolet National Forest has been involved with the YCC Program since its beginning. In 1971, a 35-man residential camp was set up on the shore of Trump Lake and put under the direction of Stanley "Stosh" Novak. During the 8-week program, the campers completed a large number of projects which were valued at more than $82,000.

The Forest's program was expanded in 1972, and included two sessions and 70 male campers. Nicolet College and Technical Institute also became involved that year, providing an assistant director, the residential living staff, and conducting the environmental education program.

P. James Steffen, a member of the Blackwell Job Corps Center teaching staff, was loaned to the YCC Program in 1973, and took over the directorship. That year also marked the beginning of a co-educational program. Eighteen girls and 17 boys participated in the one, 8-week session.

In 1974, Jerry Anderson, a speech therapist from Florence, Wisconsin, and part-time warden with the State's Department of Natural Resources, took over the camp director position. The 6-week program provided 55 young men and women with an opportunity to "work, earn, and learn" in the Nicolet National Forest. The 1975 YCC Program started out with 50 young men and women reporting for a 6-week session in June. However, midway through the summer, Congress appropriated additional funds and 40 new campers were recruited for a 4-week stint. The YCC Camp has been located at several sites, including: Trump Lake, 1971 and 1972; Clearwater Lake, 1973; and, Lost Lake, 1974 and 1975.

The Youth Conservation Corps is a successful and well-received man power program. The enthusiasm and energy put forth by YCC campers is surpassed only by the high volume of work accomplished and top quality workmanship exhibited. A synopsis of the Nicolet National Forest's Youth Conservation Corps Program follows.

19712801 8—weekMale$82,336
19722802 4—weekMale$31,950
19732801 8—weekCo-ed$44,849
19743301 6—weekCo-ed$42,700
19754601 6—week
1 4—week

*One Camper For One Week

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Last Updated: 08-Dec-2009