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E-M:/ Audit of Forests -- Best Management Practices on all lands

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org


The DNR Forest Management Division has released the first "Michigan Forestry
Best Management Practices Site Audit Program for Water Quality - 1996 Forestry
BMP Site Audits."  To translate, this is a report of how well all different
forest land managers are following voluntary guidelines for protecting water
quality and preventing erosion in forest practices (best management practices
or BMPs).  The audit was conducted on parcels on State Forests, National
Forests, industrial private forests, and non-industrial private forestlands,
which constitute 98% of all forest land in Michigan.

The report finds that "overall, compliance with BMP recommendations was 75
percent.  State forest lands had the lowest rate of compliance at 68 percent
and non-industrial lands had the highest compliance at 84 percent.  Please
note that approximately 50 percent of the timber sales reviewed in the
non-industrial category were lands owned by private corporations; however,
these corporations did not own forest products processing facilities (i.e.,
sawmills, pulpmills)."

Because the lands were not selected entirely at random and because this is the
first years such audits have been done, so the techniques and consistency
across the state are not refined, there is room to say that this report is not
a totally reliable assessment of compliance with voluntary BMPs.  At the same
time, this first report feeds into existing concerns about the manner in which
our State Forests are being managed.  New Forest Management Division Chief
John Robertson has already recognized that monitoring and enforcement of
provisions in state forest timber sales contracts is a serious problem, and
he deserves as much support as concerned conservationists can offer in
getting this problem addressed. I am certainly not shy about criticizing the
DNR of management of State Forests, but that is far to simplistic a response
to this report.

The blame lies partly on the FMD, but MOST of the blame has to be put on
a state government that has taken an attitude of maximizing the timber cut on
these public forests with little or no attention to assuring the long term
health of these lands.  With more than 30% of the sales monitored on State
Forest lands failing to meet state developed best management practices, the
Governor and the Legislature should be held to account for this
travesty, and should NOT be allowed to simply blame, once again, the
agency given the impossible task.  With the Legislature and the Governor
approving a budget that will in FY 1998 even further skew the
emphasis of management of our state forest lands to feed pulpmills and
sawmills instead of meeting our obligation to leave these forests restored and
healthy for future generations, it is time to force those who are really
responsible to be held to account. 

Governor Engler wanted to have control of the DNR, claiming that he should be
in control of the agency so that accountability would be directed at the
person directly accountable to the public.  Well, Governor, lets hold you to
your word. Mr. Engler, you are responsible for the failure of the DNR to meet
BMP's, so it is time for you to make sure the agency has the tools and the
policy support to fix the problem you have created.

Anne Woiwode

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