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Minnesota DNR taking comments on draft timber harvest report

Brad Dokken

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — Light reading it's not, but a draft report examining the potential impacts of upping Minnesota's annual timber harvest on Department of Natural Resources lands by 25 percent — to 1 million cords — could have implications for forest management and forest wildlife going forward.

Ultimately, I suppose, the question boils down to how DNR land is managed and what gets managed on that land.

The Sustainable Timber Harvest Analysis, as it's officially called, will help the DNR determine how much timber can be taken from the land it administers. The DNR originally had set a Dec. 30 deadline to comment on the draft proposal but Wednesday extended the comment period to Jan. 8.

In a news release, the DNR said it re-evaluates its forest management plans every 10 years or so. In this case, Gov. Mark Dayton has directed the DNR to determine whether harvesting 1 million cords annually from DNR forest lands is sustainable, and if not, to identify a different sustainable harvest number.

The DNR's sustainable harvest now is about 800,000 cords annually.

"This is the public's opportunity to review the computer modeling data, see the broad range of factors that go into making this decision, and provide meaningful input," John Drimel, DNR Forestry planner, said in the news release. "The analysis does not identify a recommended sustainable harvest level. Rather, it presents a range of possible harvest scenarios and the effects that varying levels of timber harvest are projected to have on the forest economy, forest ecosystems, watersheds and other indicators of forest health."

The DNR contracted with a Portland, Ore.-based consulting firm to do an independent, third-party analysis of timber harvest levels and model the potential resource impacts. The DNR also engaged what it calls a "diverse advisory group" of various timber, conservation, environmental and public landowner interests to work with staff and provide input on the process.

The news release about the draft report came out Dec. 1, but I hadn't given it much thought until this past week, when a reader emailed with his concerns.

He said he recognized the need for timber harvest and the economic role it plays in the region but had concerns about what he called a "radical increase" in that timber harvest, especially when it comes to old-growth timber.

He said more Minnesota residents and others who enjoy the Northwoods experience should be aware of the report and its potential impacts before the comment period ends.

After the public comment period closes, the DNR will consider the input it receives in finalizing the analysis report and updating its sustainable level of annual timber harvest. That report and a decision on how the DNR will proceed will be delivered to Dayton and the state Legislature by March 1, the DNR said.

More information about the draft report, including a seven-minute video from the DNR's Drimel, is available on the DNR homepage at mndnr.gov by typing the word "sustainable" in the search window.

The public can comment on the report through links on the project page, by sending email comments to stha.dnr@state.mn.us or by sending written comments to Sustainable Timber Harvest Analysis, Minnesota DNR, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155.

From fish to furrows

Who knew? There's a World Ploughing Championship, and Lake of the Woods is hosting the international event in 2019.

The world competition began in the 1950s, and 32 countries participate, said Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism. This year's competition, which goes to a different country every year, was held in Kenya. Germany is host site in 2018, and the event in Lake of the Woods County is set for Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 2019.

"Lake of the Woods County has 40,000 acres of farmland; we have a rich agricultural history," Henry said. "We expect 5,000 to 10,000 people over the course of a long weekend as far as when the competition takes place."

The goal is to promote the region as more than a destination for fishing and hunting, Henry said.

"What's the old saying: If you continue to do what you've always done, you continue to get what you always got," he said. "So we're going to mix it up a little bit."

The farmland that was chosen for the 2019 event isn't tiled, but it does fairly well in wet conditions, Henry said. Everybody competes on the same plot of land, and judging is based on criteria such as straightness, how cleanly the soil is turned, weed control, depth of furrow and others, he said.

"These people are good at what they do," Henry said. "It's an organization that brings these groups together and really wants to celebrate plowing and the culture of it but at the same time, bring nations together to create common ground."

For more information on the event, go to worldploughing.org.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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