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Why cater only to the loggers?

For the past two years a group of citizens have been meeting with the county forester hoping to exchange ideas and have citizen input to a county forest management plan.

You might be surprised by what we are asking: A temporary postponement of timber auctions. Please listen to why we believe this to be necessary.

The first step in planning any timber cut is to know what goal-results you want. Once a stand of trees is cut, all other options are unavailable. If left standing, the option to sell is still available; nothing is lost, just postponed. 

Becker County has never had a forest plan. These are public forests; public input should be a priority. The county has only had a single person, a forester who has been trained to manage the forest for forest products.

Contrast this with the highway plan. You wouldn’t think of the county highway engineer making the five-year highway plan in a vacuum. 

The result of not having a plan is we have about 60 percent aspen. Minnesota once had only 2 percent aspen, it now has 30 percent, but Becker County managed forest has about 60 percent.

Our past practices have largely been driven by commercial goals of industry and value for hunting select species such as deer and grouse. We are suggesting a broader look at additional values. 

The completion of the state biological survey in Becker County gave us valuable data that prompted the county to reconsider how our forests were being managed and to support biological diversity.

But it appears to us that this support has been forgotten: A monoculture of aspen stands will contain very little biological diversity. 

We realize that the county has had a turnover of many of the key people involved in forest policies.

It also became apparent at a natural resource meeting that adopted forest policies were perhaps not kept in any central, available place and therefore not known.

Below are some quotes from an article in the Detroit Lakes Tribune, by Nathan Bowe, “A Fresh Look at County Forests,” Wednesday, May 18, 2011, shortly after the state biological survey had been completed:

  1. According to the Minnesota County Biological Survey those areas (outstanding and high biological areas), “contain very good quality occurrences of the rarest species, high-quality examples of rare native plant communities and/or important functional landscapes.” 
  2. County administrator (at that time), “We don’t look at one item in a vacuum,…” Those same forests need to be managed for environmental and recreational needs and for wood industries — we’re looking at a sustainable operation.”
  3. “In 2010, timber sales brought in just over $167,000 — hardly enough to skew county policy when you look at the overall $38 million budget.”
  4. The article quoted the administrator and auditor as saying,  “the county is looking at the long-term when it comes to forest management.”

The result of all this information was an agreement to “stay out of outstanding and high biological areas.”  We are told by the present natural resources manager that that agreement expires in 2015.

Also the negotiated reduction of 800 acres of aspen each year to 500 acres (which may or may not be honored) expires in 2015. 

We are alarmed that a natural resource is disappearing instead of becoming an asset to the county. 

The county should take advantage of being between the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, which attracts 60,000 visitors each year, and Itasca State Park, which attracts 560,000 visitors each year. The F-M area, one of the fastest growing populations, is only 60 miles away.

Our county-managed forested lands are becoming monocultures of aspen in various stages of growth that are not attractive, will not attract tourists or trail users, and are potentially susceptible to diseases.

Here is an example of what we are describing.  A large 153 acre stand of northern hardwoods is on the 2014 exam list and will most likely be scheduled for the timber sale in October.

According to the listing in the 1982 inventory, this 153 acres in section 10 of South Round Lake Township is over 100 years old. This decision should be delayed. If cut, no options are left; if left standing during a temporary postponement, the stand will still be there, all options still available.  

Our past practices have largely been driven by commercial goals of industry and select species value for hunting such as deer and grouse. We are suggesting a broader look for additional value. 

Why do we believe the county is losing an opportunity to attract some of these visitors? Back in 1990, Minnesota resorts complained to the DNR that clear-cutting the forest was driving away their customers.

Did you know the top activity for travelers in Minnesota was scenic touring? This is according to a survey by the state Office of Tourism. Aspen monocultures and clear cuts in our forest are not scenic.