Forestry in the Badger State

Brule River State Forest, Credit: Catherine Khalar, DNR Forestry

Wisconsin’s forests have changed dramatically over the past 150 years due to logging, farming, reforestation, and development. Cessation of prairie fires occurred in southern Wisconsin as early as the 1830s, which allowed open landscapes to quickly revert to brush and forest. Logging started around 1850 and loggers were followed by catastrophic fires and settlers whose mark on the landscape was extensive during a period known as the Cutover.

Since the Cutover era, Wisconsin’s forests have recovered dramatically. The state is now covered by 16 million acres of forests and supports an array of healthy ecosystems. Ecological, economic, and social benefits have grown with the state’s growing forestland. Wisconsin also faces some difficult challenges, including environmental issues, economic demands, and changing expectations among people who use and own forests.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry is the state agency responsible for protecting and sustainably managing Wisconsin's forest ecosystems. The Division achieves this through a variety of activities, including maintaining diverse forest ecosystems, increasing forest productivity, promoting forest conservation and stewardship, and supporting forest-based recreation.