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E-M:/ DNR Budget and Timber



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Enviro-Mich message from "Anne M. Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@prodigy.net>
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Folks:

The debate has begun again about whether the Legislature should include a 
timber management mandate in the DNR's budget.   The Subcommittee is 
expected to vote on March 15th, and will have another hearing on the budget 
bill (HB 4259) next Thursday, 8:30 a.m., in the House Office 
Building.  Below is a quick overview of some of the debate, and more will 
follow.

We know for certain that the corporations by the Mead Paper Company, as 
well as associations like the Michigan Association of Timbermen, are making 
the rounds of the subcommittee members, urging them to support mandated 
timber levels.  So than no one mistakes this for some kind of altruistic 
effort to assure that the forests are properly managed, let us be very 
clear that increased sales of timber from state lands will go straight to 
bringing down the costs of timber and increasing the supply that the 
industry can buy.  While there is plenty of room for a healthy timber 
industry in Michigan, the question has to be asked as to why it is 
essential for the  state's forest lands to be the target of arbitrary 
marking goals to put wood into the pipeline to feed the timber beast? Can 
anyone really argue that we should ignore all other values when managing 
our state forests, and simply let the Legislature mandate timber be our top 
priority?

In the Subcommittee the Michigan Association of Timbermen made the 
following arguments as to why the people of Michigan owe it to the timber 
industry to mandate a minimum level.  As columnist Dave Barry says, I am 
not making this up.

1) In 1994, the DNR reportedly asked private organizations for help lobby 
to put an extra $1 million of state taxpayer money into the DNR's budget 
for Forest Management to allow the DNR to bring on extra foresters. That 
the DNR at that time asked for groups to lobby on their behalf is not 
unusual -- they approached  many groups, including Sierra Club, with that 
request. The Michigan Association of Timbermen, and apparently the rest of 
the timber industry, claim that this request came with a "promise" that the 
DNR would produce a 100,000 cords more of timber the next year.  Again, 
let's be clear about this -- this was lobbying of the state Legislature 
during one year to put State tax money into a State agency for hiring staff 
-- how anyone in their right mind would consider this a valid basis for 
arguing six years later that the people of Michigan owe it to the timber 
industry for the past four Fiscal Years, and for this coming Fiscal Year as 
well, to arbitrarily increase the amount of timber that the DNR must 
prepare for harvest is rather a large leap, as far as I am concerned.

2) The MAT claims that despite their munificent act of lobbying for 
increasing timber levels from DNR land in 1994, in fact nothing was 
increased.  However, the DNR points out that in fact they did treat many 
more acres of land starting in the mid-1990's.  The numbers went from 
somewhere around 48,000 acres to in FY1999 60,000 acres.  The reality is, 
however, that those lands contain large amounts of northern hardwood 
forests which produce wood of a much higher value, despite taking fewer 
cords off the land.  The reality is that northern hardwoods produce not 
only more dollars per cord, they also produce many more jobs per cord, both 
out in the woods and in the mills.  Quite simply, it takes many fewer 
people to clearcut and pulp wood for oriented strandboard or paper than it 
does for lumber, so the economic benefit to a community of a cord of wood 
from a northern hardwood stand is much greater than the cord of wood from a 
clearcutting pulping operation. Needless to say, it is often easier to keep 
your tourism base when there is a select harvested forest stand than when 
the land is clearcut, so that economic angle is also improved.

3) The MAT claims that Michigan's state forest could sustain timber cutting 
intensity of about twice the number of cords of wood coming off the forests 
today.  This is a back of the envelope calculation that assumes several 
things.  First, it assumes that all the land that has trees on it is fair 
game for cutting, and that all of that land will produce at an average rate 
of .5 cords per acre per year.  So, for example, despite the fact that the 
timber industry claims they are interested in more environmentally sound 
forest practices, this calculation says that there would be no set asides 
for rare or sensitive areas, no set asides for riparian zones to prevent 
degradation of waterways, that we would cut in the cedar swamps that are 
not regenerating because of far too great deer browse, and that any trees 
in campgrounds, along trails or in other scenic areas should be ready to be 
marked for whacking.  To its credit, in order to create a better picture of 
the resource they manage, the DNR has been trying to get a handle on how 
much of their land will be off limits to timber cutting for these reasons, 
in addition to those acres that are water or are treeless. In some cases, 
lands are not accessible for logging because they are land locked by 
private owners, or there are no bridges to get to them, but the proportion 
of land in the factor limited category for those reasons is relatively small.

4) The MAT claims that despite the mandate last year for 69,000 acres to be 
put up for sale, the DNR only put up 49,000.  According to DNR this is a 
fact.  The reality is that huge numbers of DNR staff were called to work on 
fire crews in the west last year because of the remarkably intense fire 
season. As a result, the staff were not available to do a whole range of 
activities, including timber sales.  Does the timber industry believe that 
it was a bad idea for DNR staff to go out west to fight fires?  They 
certainly shouldn't -- their "assets", ie their own forest lands, depend on 
fire fighting by the DNR, and the state trades its staff time and resources 
with other states and agencies to fight fires where and when they are 
needed, knowing full well that forests in Michigan, including those owned 
by the timber industry, will someday benefit from having fire fighters from 
other parts of the country come fight fires here.  As a result, this 
argument by MAT is so much more obnoxious than the others -- the industry 
SUPPORTS the DNR doing fire fighting, yet will turn around and pick up the 
fact that as a result they did less timber management to beat the DNR over 
the head.  It should be noted that the DNR also said they will increase the 
acres to 63,000 this coming FY to try to make up for the reduction last 
year, however they also ran into a shortage of contractors to hire to carry 
out the work. Since the state went through staff reductions in 1997 (which, 
by the way, was the original reason given in the legislation for having a 
timber mandate) the agency has been required to hire contractors to help 
complete their work, it shouldn't be a surprise that in the past few years 
those folks are harder to find and hire.

Again, there is much more to this issue as well.  Please join in the effort 
to kill this mandate once and for all --

Anne Woiwode

<<-   <<-   <<-   <<-   <<-   <<-  ->>  ->>  ->>  ->>  ->>
Anne Woiwode, Program Director, Michigan Forest Biodiversity Program
Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter, 109 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906
phone: 517-484-2372                                       email: 
anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org



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