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DNR says more timber available on state land

Tom Landwehr, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources1 / 2
Forum News Service file photo2 / 2

BEMIDJI, Minn.—The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is boosting the amount of timber harvestable annually from state lands, according to a news release.

Officials said Thursday, March 1, that, based on new data, a harvest of 870,000 cords can be offered for sale annually from DNR-managed forest lands in the next 10 years. The amount represents an 8.75 percent increase in the harvest target from the 800,000 cord sales target for the past 15 years.

A cord is a unit used to describe lumber harvested. A cord of timber is a pile of wood with 4-foot long pieces stacked 4 feet high and 8 feet long, containing 128 cubic feet of space, the DNR said.

The data driving the DNR to its decision was compiled in an analysis that took more than a year and included discussions with stakeholders and public input. The release stated that in 2016, Gov. Mark Dayton called for an updated assessment on the number of cords harvested to ensure the DNR meets the state's goal of commercial timber production, as well as goals related to wildlife, habitat and biodiversity.

"We had good representation from our stakeholder advisory group from the forest product industry," DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said in a teleconference on the subject Thursday. "I think it was across the spectrum from small businesses to the larger mills."

The Minnesota DNR manages 5 million acres of forest lands, amounting to 29 percent of Minnesota's total forest lands. Timber harvesting occurs on 2.75 million acres of those lands that are in state forests and wildlife management areas, as well as school and university trust lands. Logging is a key industry in the Bemidji, Minn., area and for north-central to northeast Minnesota.

The forest lands provide about 30 percent of Minnesota's wood supply for the timber industry, which has a $17.1 billion annual economic impact.

"We're just rolling this out now, so it's too early to see what the comments are, but quite clearly, the industry wanted more timber off of state land," Landwehr said. "There've been statements made in the past saying 'We should be able to get a million cords or more from state land.' So, I expect there to be some concern from folks that we could have gone to a higher number."

The DNR also plans to launch a special five-year initiative that could offer up to 30,000 additional cords of ash and tamarack timber. The move is in response to the threat posed by the emerald ash and eastern larch beetle, two invasive species that kill ash and tamarack trees.

Additionally, the DNR said during the past two decades, the agency has worked to reduce an oversupply of older aspen trees on managed lands. Because that oversupply has largely been eliminated and the managed lands have more of a desired distribution by tree age, aspen harvest levels will gradually decrease from 400,000 cords to 360,000, the DNR said.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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