Those of us within the forest products industry have watched with interest over the past couple years as a string of former Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employees have used the press to attempt to undo the results of a robust, scientific, collaborative forest management planning process ("Minnesota's long wrong turn on natural resources," Nov. 12).
Minnesota's sustainable timber harvest analysis was an 18-month effort requested by Gov. Mark Dayton and funded by the Legislature. Fourteen citizens representing a broad range of interests in forestry, wildlife habitat and conservation — including the Izaak Walton League and DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife representatives — served as a sounding board for the process.
Together they designed 18 scenarios to analyze the impacts different harvest levels and constraints would have upon myriad forest values.
An outside firm was hired to perform the analysis to provide separation from the DNR. They used sophisticated computer modeling to combine forest stand inventory, growth and yield models, outcome projections, and the constraints imposed by the scenarios.
To give an idea of how detailed this effort was, each time they ran a scenario through the model it took one or two full days for the computer to complete its work.
This is where the art of collaborative planning comes in. The model clearly showed that the land could sustainably produce 1 million cords of wood per year in Minnesota. But it would result in changes to forest composition and structure that were unacceptable to some members of the working group. Other scenarios severely hampered forest management. These would also result in unacceptable changes to forest structure and composition, but also severe impacts to loggers, industry and rural economies.
Compromises were made and the entire group settled on a number they could live with. Even Don Arnosti, representative for the Izaak Walton League, said the analysis was the best forest analysis that he had been part of. "What I liked about this study is it didn't try to come in with one truth. It took different assumptions and perspectives into account." ("DNR increases timber harvest target to 870,000 cords," Javier Serna, Outdoor News, March 9, 2018.)
The next step in this process was implementation. The model generated a 10-year stand examination list — a list of those stands of trees that have the potential for active management. Managers from all DNR divisions and the public reviewed that list. Some stands were dropped, others were added and some were deferred. These decisions do not occur in a vacuum and no one division calls all of the shots. Again, this process requires compromise.
What has become abundantly clear over the past two years is that some folks don't like to compromise. If they don't get their way, they try to change the group decision by demeaning other participants in the process, complaining to authorities, calling for federal audits and trying to insert themselves into the implementation effort.
We have read with disbelief all of the articles claiming that the "timber industry" is ruining wildlife habitat in this state. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Izaak Walton League was there at the table and agreed to the outcome. The Division of Fish and Wildlife asked for longer rotations and more reserves on wildlife management areas, and got them.
The timber industry did not get the outcome we were hoping for, either, and yet we seem to be the only ones abiding by the group's decision.
This type of behavior undermines the very process of collaborative decisionmaking. This is how the DNR does deer-management planning, sets special fishing regulations, decides how to manage wolves, etc. But why should any reasonable entity go to the time and effort to be a part of such efforts if they know that some participants will refuse to honor the outcomes and will try to get their way in the court of public opinion?
This divisive behavior has got to stop. We support the DNR's decision to implement the sustainable timber harvest analysis for 10 years and then revisit it to see how it actually is working.
Dale Erickson is a logger and business owner in northern Minnesota. He was a member of the Sustainable Timber Harvest Analysis Stakeholder Advisory Group.