Growing Timber Sales Translates To More Conservation Work In Northern Wisconsin

National Forest In Northern Wisconsin Sees Timber Sales Rise For 5th Year In A Row

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Joshua Mayer (CC-BY-SA)

Timber sales on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest have gone up for the fifth year in a row. The growth in sales isn’t only benefiting loggers, but forest conservation projects.

The national forest is on track to sell more than 123 million board feet of timber this year, which is the most the agency has been able to sell since the mid-1990s.

Through the 2014 Farm Bill, Forest Supervisor Paul Strong said they’ve been able to partner with state and local governments, as well as nonprofit groups, to speed up harvests on the national forest. He said some of the money from those timber cuts will go toward maintaining the health of the forest.

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“It’s really important for people to understand that this is not all about timber,” Strong said. “By doing that work, which is driving us toward these sustainable forest management conditions, we’re also getting about another $1.25 (million) — $1.5 million that stays right here on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest to get good conservation projects done.”

Federal budget cuts and wildfires out west have strained the agency’s ability to conduct timber sales and sustainable forest management in recent years. Last year, the U.S. Forest Service signed a stewardship agreement with The Nature Conservancy to carry out some of those projects.

Matt Dallman, director of conservation with The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, said they will conduct timber sales on 1.7 million board feet and use revenues from those timber harvests to fund conservation projects.

“They just have not had the capacity and ability to implement their sustainably developed management plans,” Dallman said. “The Nature Conservancy saw this and the ability to use stewardship agreements as an opportunity to implement sustainable management (and) help the forest carry that role out.”

The environmental nonprofit will use revenues from timber harvests for projects that include restoration of stream banks on the Oconto River and rare jack pine and oak barrens in northeastern Wisconsin. At least some work could begin as early as next spring. Dallman noted the timeline for implementing their conservation work depends on how soon loggers harvest the timber they’ve been sold under contract.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has also been helping the USFS with additional timber sales. The Good Neighbor Authority under the 2014 Farm Bill allowed the federal agency and states to enter into agreements so that states could assist with national forest management.

Jeff Olsen, a national forest specialist with the DNR, said they set a goal of selling 25 million board feet more each year in addition to contracts the USFS awarded. Olsen said some loggers will just begin to harvest timber from those sales this winter, generating revenues for conservation projects.

“We are planning out projects at this point. We’ve developed an extensive list along with the Forest Service, and we’re prioritizing those projects so that when funds are available we’ll be ready to fund them and get them going,” said Olsen.

Olsen said there are about 30 projects the state and USFS have identified to manage issues including invasive species, recreation and trail work, and watershed and wildlife restoration. Those projects are also set to begin as early as next spring.

The USFS manages 1.5 million acres of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin.