Federal Sustainable Forest Committee: Working to Make a Difference in Wisconsin

by Steve Kariainen: HFHC Great Lakes Director

Montana’s Bruce Vincent likes to remind us, “The world is run by those who show up!”

Margaret Mead is famous for saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

A small group of thoughtful, committed citizens got together in northern Wisconsin several years ago and decided it was time for them to see if there was any way they could change the direction of forest management on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF). The group recognized that years of the CNNF falling far short of meeting the timber harvest goals prescribed in its forest plan was negatively impacting forest health and the local economy.

Over time the group evolved into what is now the Federal Sustainable Forest Committee (FSFC) and includes members representing a broad cross section of interests from across the eleven Wisconsin counties within the CNNF. Representatives from economic development, education, environmental organizations, private industry, loggers, foresters, tribal government, forestry associations and the general public are all welcome as potential members.

The founders of FSFC were almost exclusively from the eastern half of the CNNF, but the committee has recently added members from the west half of the forest and hopes to grow its representation there even more. In 2018, FSFC developed a list of goals, a mission statement, and formal committee bylaws.


“Coordinate with Congressional Representatives and the USDA Forest Service to harvest timber at the Forest Plan levels to meet the Allowable Sale Quantity (ASQ) to promote sustainable, healthy forests, to sustain local economies, industry, government and school districts.”

“Request sufficient appropriations from Congress for the USDA Forest Service to meet the Allowable Sale Quantity on the CNNF. Future staffing should support services related to timber harvesting and meeting the ASQ.”

“Provide a unified voice for local economies, industry, citizens, governments (county, towns, tribes) and local school districts by promoting timber harvesting during USDA Forest Service comment periods including environmental project reviews and the USDA planning process.”

“Provide public education and awareness on the importance of sustainable timber harvesting for a healthy forest on CNNF lands, increasing recreational opportunities and public access, promoting fish and wildlife habitat, while supplying raw materials for local industry and jobs to sustain local economies and schools.”


“To promote the active sustainable management of federal forest lands through timber harvesting to improve forest health, protect neighboring forest lands, promote economic development through multiple uses to sustain local economies, industry, citizens, government agencies and school districts.”

Bruce Vincent and Margaret Mead are correct. People can make a difference. But to make a meaningful difference and change what needs to be changed, people must be armed with the facts and be able to work with others to find effective and lasting solutions to problems.

Federal forest management, or lack of it, has been a major problem for several decades. Forest management nationwide has suffered from anti-logging litigation, lack of program funding due to massive fire suppression costs, and extensive use of endangered species habitat protections. Forest Service harvest fell from 12.7 billion board feet systemwide in 1987 to 1.9 billion board feet in 2001. This has resulted in a tremendous buildup of dense and over-mature timber in many areas of the country, much of which is now in danger of going up in flames.

Until 1999, Wisconsin had two National Forests, the Chequamegon and the Nicolet. The two units were combined in 2000 into the CNNF. Total timber harvest of the two forests in 1987 was 165 MMBF. In 2001, 120 MMBF was harvested on the CNNF. Timber harvest on the CNNF bottomed out at 51 MMBF in 2011 and has rebounded to 90 MMBF in 2018. It should be noted that 129 MMBF of timber was sold on the CNNF in 2018 (thanks in no small part to help from the Good Neighbor Authority), suggesting that future harvest volumes should increase.

The long-term annual sustained yield potential of the CNNF is 251 MMBF. The average annual allowable sale quantity defined by the forest plan is 144 MMBF, compared to an average annual harvest over the last decade of 74 MMBF. Obviously, the FSFC has a lot of work to do. Failure to manage the forest is not doing the forest or neighboring rural communities any favor. Lack of young forest habitat created logging has resulted in reduced deer and small game hunter success. Lack of local log supply raises costs for local loggers and mills and reduces revenues for local schools and units of government.

The FSFC needs help in spreading the word that the health of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is important to the health of rural northern Wisconsin communities and in reviewing and commenting on CNNF projects and planning. If you live within one of the eleven counties home to the CNNF and have a strong interest in promoting active management of the forest, please contact one of the following for more information on becoming part of the Federal Sustainable Forest Committee:

Chair, Dave Ziolkowski: phone: (715)889-2529; email: ziolkowskifarm@centurytel.net
Vice-chair, Steve Kariainen: phone: (715)699-4181; email: steve@healthyforests.org
Secretary/Treasurer, Gary Zimmer: phone: (715) 612-2013; email: wcfa2@frontier.com

Federal Sustainable Forest Committee: Working to Make a Difference in Wisconsin