Garber plans summit on managing state’s forests

RGS calls Finnish model plantations’

St. Paul, Minn. The Commissioner of the Minnesota DNR has called
a summit meeting on forest management in April where he hopes to
bring together environmentalists and lumber interests.

Commissioner Allen Garber said he wants to introduce the
forestry model used in Finland, one that has resulted in both a
profitable lumber industry and harmony between the two sides of the
forestry debate.

Garber said Finland has become a model of efficiency, producing
25 percent of the world’s paper and wood products from less than 1
percent of its forested land, through selective cutting and more
frequent harvesting.

He visited the nation and toured its forests in September. He
liked what he saw and said he wants to move from the increasingly
aspen-dominated forests here to the highly managed,
staggered-growth ones in Finland.

“We went out and saw the forest and it was absolutely beautiful.
We had the opportunity to watch that kind of harvesting go on.
Without exaggeration, we saw that after the logger finished, you
couldn’t tell they were in there. It was so light on the land, so
nondestructive to the land,” he said.

Adopting the Finland model would mean dropping the aggressive
clear-cutting that has in many places produced aspen-dominated
forests in Minnesota.

In its place would be a carefully monitored management process
that would thin forests for ideal timber production and
sustainability, while still benefiting recreation and wildlife
habitat.

Gone, too, would be the often-contentious atmosphere that has
dominated Minnesota’s timber management debate over the past
decade, as environmental and timber industry groups clash over how
best to manage a resource that is one of Minnesota’s most treasured
and valuable.

While such a marked change would take decades to accomplish,
Garber said it’s important to start now. Just changing attitudes
would be a solid step forward, he said.

Betsy Daub, acting director of Minnesota Audubon, said Garber’s
views show promise.

“I’m really encouraged (that) the commissioner is talking about
looking at the whole forest,” Daub said. “He’s not calling it a
timber summit, he’s calling it a forest summit. He wants to really
find solutions through impasses and bring all the people together
and look for solutions. We certainly would support all those
concepts and would like to participate and discuss ideas. But a lot
depends on what the agenda is and the goals.”

Wayne Brandt, executive vice president of Minnesota Forest
Industries, a trade organization representing the forest products
industry, was even more supportive.

“I think it’s a positive thing,” Brandt said. “Commissioner
Garber is not interested in the fights of the past. He is
interested in positively moving forward and trying new things. And
we are very supportive of that.”

The RGS response

Biologists from the Ruffed Grouse Society issued a press release
and letter last week outlining their concerns with Garber’s
proposal. The group, in its release, compared Finnish forests to
“plantations.”

“The Finnish Model is based upon intensive forestry practices to
maximize fiber output, at the expense of the habitat needs of
forest wildlife,” the group said in its release. “These practices
include bulldozing or mowing strips in young forests so they will
grow faster, frequently thinning existing forests and other methods
that inhibit regeneration of natural aspen forests.”

Such forest management could have negative effects on wildlife
habitat for white-tailed deer, grouse, snowshoe hares, and the
predators that rely on those species, the group maintains.

The complete letter from RGS Senior Wildlife Biologist Dan
Dessecker, is reprinted on Page 3 of this week’s Outdoor News.

In a short response letter dated Jan. 2, Garber said the agency
is committed to including all forest interests in the new
approach.

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