Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin brought U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to Rhinelander and Forest county to see if a bridge could be built regarding harvesting trees in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
Baldwin and Tidwell listened to a group of northern Wisconsin business representatives, environmental groups, tribal foresters, hunters, educators, state and county forestry officials. The message was clear from several stakeholders: they need to cut more wood in the Chequamengon-Nicolet National Forest to keep the health of the forest and resurrect a dying economy.
Henry Schienebeck from the Rhinelander-based industry group Great Lakes Timber Professionals says loggers costs have gone up, saying access to wood in the national forest is hurting the local economy..
"....and there has to be a balance there. Quite frankly, with the timber supply that's out there we're afraid of losing the industry out there in this region..."
Wood industry spokespersons say they would like the Chequamegon-Nicolet to allow harvest to its planned goal.
Chief Tidwell says a problem is a reduced budget has strained their resources for forest management, especially as there have been large fires to deal with in the west. But more money has been authorized...
"....but it also frees up some space in our budget constraint so we would have some additional resources to be more pro-active around management to improve forest health...."
Many of the stakeholders say they are already working together on a local collaborative initiative that would find a solution to allow more cutting without damaging sensitive environmental areas..
Senator Baldwin says the idea of better cooperation between all the parties is key...
".....(northern Wisconsin) is still one of the forested areas that has a robust timber products industry adjacent to the forest. Believe it or not, that is not the case in forest across the country. That is why I hope there will be additional emphasis on better management...."
After the meeting at the National Forest headquarters in Rhinelander, Baldwin, Tidwell and the group toured public and private lands, starting at Nicolet Hardwoods in Laona.