DNR Considers Allowing Loggers To Harvest More Timber From State Land

Environmentalists Are Concerned Doing So Would Result In Loss Of Vital Habitats

Loggers harvesting timber in the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest. Photo: Wisconsin DNR (CC-BY-ND).

Some loggers are pressuring the Department of Natural Resources to allow more timber harvesting from state lands.

DNR leaders, state lawmakers, some Natural Resources Board members and loggers braved a cold day last December to tour the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest north of Rhinelander. Their mission was to talk about industry concerns that not enough sawmill-suitable logs had been marked for harvest.

The discussion grew to center on log harvest on the one million forested acres the DNR manages, and resulted in the writing of a state report that was discussed by the board this week.

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The DNR’s Darrel Zastrow said one short-term move may be more training for DNR staff “to understand the economic challenges of our forest industrial partners — those loggers who are out there trying to make a living.”

Zastrow also talked about faster re-advertising of timber sales that don’t sell.

The agency has also received a few negative comments about its saw log review process. Ron Eckstein, who represents a group of wildlife biologists known as the Wildlife Society, generally praises the DNR’s Division of Forestry. He did say, however, that he’s concerned that the December field trip seems to have been in response to one complaint.

“Our question is, if someone complains about wildlife habitat or an ecological concern, would there be a similar field trip and review?” said Eckstein.

Eckstein also pointed out that there were no conservation groups on that December tour. He said that he worries that loggers want to harvest older oaks that are vital for wildlife.

The DNR said it certainly would respond quickly to concerns from others, and said that forest sustainability won’t be harmed if the department “nudges” saw log production.

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