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.