Walker: Wis. forest being underused for logging
- Associated Press
- December 13, 2013 - 10:20 AM
MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker is calling for more trees to be harvested from a national forest in far northern Wisconsin as part of the state's efforts to spur growth in its struggling timber industry.
Loggers and forestry experts have complained about how the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest has been managed. They say the 1.5-million-acre forest is being underused, in part because of shortsighted federal harvest plans, Gannett Wisconsin Media reported (http://post.cr/JmKVF9 ).
Walker agreed, saying in a statement Thursday that he thinks a more responsible harvest plan would yield greater output and provide an economic boost.
"The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest contains a valuable resource that, right now, is underutilized — millions of feet of timber just waiting to be harvest in an environmentally sensitive, sustainable way," Walker said. "This is another way to ensure forestry remains a vibrant part of Wisconsin's economy."
The Gannett report said the U.S. Forest Service could have harvested 1.3 billion board feet of wood in the past decade under its current forest plan. Instead it harvested about 60 percent of that.
National forestry officials say a lack of federal funds has limited their ability to harvest more Northwoods timber. Other factors that have contributed to a loss of jobs in Wisconsin's timber industry include foreign competition and volatile markets.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state agency tasked with creating Wisconsin jobs, is investing $49,000 for a consultant to develop a stewardship plan in the next six months. WEDC spokesman Mark Maley said regardless of the report's findings, the harvest strategy won't call for any level of timber harvest above what was already approved in a 2004 national management plan.
Earlier Gannett reports "outlined the fact that we have all this timber just sitting around and there's no reason it shouldn't be harvested," Maley said.
The plan may draw opposition from ecologists and environmental advocates, who have pushed back against harvest of hardwood oak, maple and birch from the national forest. Many of the mature stands provide rich habitat for a number of threatened wildlife species.
The stewardship plan isn't expected to focus entirely on harvests. A memorandum outlining the WEDC plan said it will include vegetation management, fire-hazard reduction, habitat improvement a maintenance of roads and trails.
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