August 21, 2014

Senators look at forestry issues in northern Wisconsin

(Photo: Travel Wisconsin)

(Photo: Travel Wisconsin)

Wisconsin’s two U.S. senators are taking a closer look at issues facing the forestry and timber industries in northern Wisconsin.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Tuesday toured Forest County and National forest land with representatives from the Great lakes Timber Professionals, while U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) toured the Nicolet Hardwoods sawmill in Laona on Monday.

Johnson says opportunities for harvesting timber in the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest are being wasted. He says he plans to put together numbers estimating what kind of revenue that forest could generate, and says changes should be made in the way national forest management is funded. “Having the federal government in their national forest use the same model that counties use to manage their forests, which is really open up that forest to bidding, manage them properly, and use that revenue for the actual management of the forest – it should self-finance.”

A 10-year forest plan put Chequamegon Nicolet harvest goals at 131 million board feet per year, but only about half that amount is actually being cut. Sawmills and wood products manufacturers say there isn’t enough wood to meet the demand.

Baldwin says she wants the forest to meet its harvest goals. “When I hear that a well-vetted plan about how the forests in this area…would be managed over the years, when I see that they haven’t even gotten close to achieving those goals…that were put together with a lot of stakeholder involvement, that’s disappointing and I want to know why.”

Calls to increase timber harvests are raising some concerns. Karl Welch, Timber Program Manager for the Chequamegon Nicolet says there are not enough resources available to allow the forest service to meet those forest plan goals. “There’s factors associated with that, and some of those factors include our environmental analysis costs have increased over time, and they’re taking a bigger portion of our budget, in order to meet the rigors of the laws.”

Welch says harvest goals for each annual budget appropriation are being met. He also notes that the Chequamegon Nicolet is in the top five national forests in terms of total timber volume output.


Dairyland Power says coal deliveries increased

genoa3It appears concerns about inadequate coal shipments to some Wisconsin power plants have been addressed. There were concerns that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway was prioritizing crude oil shipments from North Dakota, at the expense of coal customers, including Dairyland Power Cooperative, where Deb Mirasola is manager of communications and marketing.

“BNSF has assured us that they are increasing the frequency of service to the barge station on the Mississippi River, which delivers to our Genoa facility, and we are seeing that frequency now,” said Mirasola.

BNSF has pledged three additional train sets, each with about 115 car loads of coal. That’s after Dairyland raised concerns with elected officials in Madison and Washington. “We continued to work with the BNSF throughout the process,” said Mirasola. “We just thought it was important to share our situation with our members and our legislators.”

Mirisola pointed out that the situation had the potential to become urgent – Dairyland gets its coal via rail, and then by barge on the Mississippi, so once the river freezes up, they can’t get more until spring.

Change on-line passwords in wake of breach

Computer mouse

Computer mouse

Experts say there are relatively simple ways to keep personal information safe on-line, in the wake of what’s beeing called the biggest security breach ever. The massive breach was revealed this week by Milwaukee-based Hold Securities – 1.2 billion usernames and passwords belonging to more than 500 million e-mail addresses.

Madison College information security instructor Mike Masino said Russian hackers likely worked for months to make the breach, by building off of user accounts they’d already gathered. “They just attacked a ton of sites at the same time, then once they compromised the sites they used that to compromise the users on that site. It had kind of a domino effect,” Masino said.

Masino said “this kind of stuff goes on all the time,” but what’s making news is the sheer size of the breach. Hold Securities said the stolen information came from more than 420,000 thousand websites. Masino said that’s yet another reminder to keep changing out on-line user names passwords.

“If they steal millions of user names and passwords, it’s going to take them awhile to go through that list and explot all those,” he explained. “If you’re changing your password every two months or three months, you’ve just reduced your window that they have to use your information down to that amount of time.”

“Consumers who may have used the same username and password for their online financial accounts as they used for other online websites should consider changing those,” said Rose Oswald Poels, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Bankers Association. “Although initial reports say that financial institutions were not the target of the hackers who stole 1.2 billion passwords from over 420,000 websites, consumers tend to use the same username and passwords for multiple accounts. This potentially leaves them vulnerable to unauthorized access to their funds.”

Poels also urged consumers to be vigilant and review their accounts for any suspicious or unauthorized activity.

Grassland Dairy fined

wisconsin-dojA Clark County dairy producer will pay a  fine for exceeding the limits of a state permit. Grassland Dairy Products has been ordered to pay $300,000 after the Attorney General’s office obtained a judgement against the dairy. Grassland reportedly failed to comply with a biochemical oxygen demand discharge limit of 82.6 pounds per day.

Department of Natural Resources investigators found the plant had several days where the discharge was 150 % of the permitted limit. The DNR regulates BOD, or biochemical oxygen demand levels because it affects the amount of dissolved oxygen in nearby waterways for aquatic life. The nearby Black River is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of impaired rivers due to low oxygen in Clark County.

The violations occurred between 2006 and 2013. Grassland has upgraded its wastewater treatment plant to address the problems. Grassland is one of the world’s largest producers of butter.


Military cutbacks hurt Oshkosh Corporation

PHOTO: Oshkosh Defense

PHOTO: Oshkosh Defense

The leader of a Fox Valley business group says he’s not too concerned about a disappointing third-quarter economic report from the Oshkosh Corporation.

The company reported a 46 percent drop in sales for the defense division, and an overall earnings decline of 29 percent.

However, Oshkosh Area Chamber of Commerce president John Casper says other areas of the company improved, including a 27 percent sales boost in the commercial division. He hopes those sectors can eventually make up for a drop in U.S. military purchases.

Casper says if Oshkosh can win a contract to replace the military’s Humvees, in a couple of years, many of the losses would be offset.