DNR Forests for Recreation or Harvest, or Both?

The MN DNR commissioner recently re-assigned two top state foresters and replaced their position temporarily with himself in an attempt to see state lands harvested “more quickly” to help the struggling forest products industry.

This poses many questions.

Is this what Minnesotans value and want? What about sustainability? What’s the longterm plan? What about community preservation and Minnesotan values? Will the replacement foresters (a national search is currently underway) understand and truly value the Minnesota identity and subculture that is built upon the abundance the forest offers—including hunting, fishing, recreation, solace, appreciation, inspiration, shade, clean air, clean water, animal habitat, etc.—in other words, much more than just timber harvesting?

What about the tourist and recreation industries? Is Minnesota going to preserve and market its vast natural forest land as a destination place, like other states such as Colorado? Who else will benefit from this aggressive harvesting? (Is it “aggressive”?) Is it short-term financially beneficial to solely the timber industry (and the DNR)? What about the long-term future of Minnesota forests?

Most importantly, what is Minnesota without clean lakes, clean air, and abundant forests complete with natural wildlife? And how does this plan affect all that? Yea, all that—oof-dah, that’s a lot to think about.

“The forestry director oversees about 495 employees and a $73 million annual budget, according to the DNR. The division has had to absorb budget cuts from the state’s general fund in recent years. It oversees 58 state forests that cover 3.9 million acres, much of it in northern Minnesota. The division is the single largest manager of timber land within the state, bigger than even the U.S. Forest Service.” (-Twin Cities Pioneer Press SEE FULL STORY)

Early in 2011 the newly appointed commissioner, Tom Landwehr, was described as: “With a Master’s Degree in Business, Landwehr understands that conservation and resource management must be properly balanced to promote economic prosperity and support jobs. . . . He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys hunting, fishing, canoeing, camping and boating.” (-news release from Dayton’s office)

But what “jobs” are in the best interest of the state? Is it forest agriculture? Or recreation? Tourism? Quality of life in Minnesota (the enjoyment and benefit of Minnesota forests for residents)? . . .