by Tim O’Hara: HFHC Great Lakes Director
In Federal FY2018 the National Forests in MN, WI and MI are estimating a timber program that has not been reached in more than 20 years. This has been achieved through collaborative efforts between the HFHC, Lake States Federal Timber Purchasers, and State Natural Resources Departments.
A key to the success in the Lake States is keeping open lines of communications between the industry and Forest Service leadership in good times and in bad times. These lines of communication has allowed the Lake States to consistently produce 70%+ of the Forest Service Eastern Region timber outputs.
In addition, the authorities approved by Congress, such as, the Good Neighbor Authority has allowed State Natural Resources Departments to coordinate with the Forest Service on forest management activities. The Good Neighbor Authority has certainly increased the “pace and scale” of forest management activities in all three states. Wisconsin was the leader in implementing the GNA with legislative support at the State and Federal level. Michigan and Minnesota were soon to follow. GNA is certainly making a difference in rural economies and improving forest health.
We still have work to do. Young forests in the Lake States are extremely important to many wildlife species, including ruffed grouse, whitetail deer, moose, and numerous song birds such as the golden-winged warbler. Due to limited funding to implement plans, the Lake States National Forests have only provided for about 50% of the young forest habitat objectives, as stated in respective forest plans.
As Congress works on the Farm Bill revision its critical that the “Early Successional” Categorical Exclusion be included in the final bill. This authority will allow the Forest Service to create much needed young-forest habitat across the Eastern Region of the Forest Service.
I’ll end where I started. Nobody wins when they take their ball and go home. It’s important that discussions between industry and the Forest Service continue, in good and bad times. Groups that have worked in the Lake States to make this happen are the Lake States Federal Timber Purchasers Committee, Great Lakes Timber Producers Association, Michigan Forest Products Council, Minnesota Forest Industries, and Healthy Forest Healthy Communities. Keep up the good work!