The Department of Natural Resources “did absolutely the right thing’’ by undertaking a deep analysis of state-owned timber resources but didn’t go far enough in raising its annual harvest goal, according to an industry stakeholder.
Wayne Brandt, executive director of Minnesota Forest Industry, said the state won’t even put a dent in its large rotating inventory of mature aspen as it shifts to a new 10-year sustainable timber harvest of 870,000 cords, an 8.75 percent increase in the overall harvest target.
Commercial mills in Minnesota utilize aspen more than other types of wood, and greater supplies of it bring lower prices for the raw material.
“We think there’s too much old aspen on state lands,’’ Brandt said.
But Jon Drimel, DNR forest resource planner, said the extensive computer modeling that went into the analysis indicated that foresters would have to sacrifice other management objectives to boost timber sales to 1 million cords a year. That was the benchmark former Gov. Mark Dayton asked the DNR to consider.
“We have to manage for competing interests without creating long-term problems for ourselves,’’ Drimel said.
Brandt, Drimel and others shared their views Friday on Minnesota’s public forest management at the annual DNR Roundtable. They each gave interviews to the Star Tribune.
Brandt said the wood products industry now consumes about 2.5 million cords a year. It employs about 64,000 people and produces $17 billion in annual economic impact. The DNR controls the biggest single source of wood in the state as the manager of 2.75 million acres of workable timberlands.
Brandt applauded the DNR for hiring an independent contractor from Oregon to model the long-term impacts of timber harvest under many scenarios. But the 10-year strategy chosen by the agency is overly protective of the existing structure of aspen, he said.
The harvest target not only is dissatisfying to industry, but it shortchanges wildlife species that depend on young forests, he said.
“We think they should have come to a significantly higher number,’’ Brandt said.
Drimel said the 870,000-cord harvest target enables the DNR to be a “stable force’’ in the commercial timber market without sacrificing forest management objectives for biodiversity, wildlife habitat, endangered species, clean water and public recreation.
“It’s not a way for the state to make a bunch of money off of timber markets,’’ Drimel said. “It’s our tool to create positive habitat and healthy forests.’’
Don Arnosti, executive director of the Izaak Walton League of Minnesota, said at the roundtable that the DNR’s new timber harvest target is “toward the high end of defensible boundaries.’’
He gave a “B” grade to the analysis, not an “A,’’ because it didn’t adequately consider climate change science. Aronsti said higher temperatures and shorter winters will be incompatible with the dependable viability and harvest of lowland timber. Swamps must be frozen for certain stands to be logged.
Arnosti said the new target harvest is overly optimistic by about 100,000 cords.