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Published October 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

DNR: Minnesota forests can sustain more logging

DULUTH, Minn. – Minnesota’s forests can sustain logging 5.5 million cords of wood each year, about double the current level, according to an analysis for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released this week.

By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune, INFORUM

DULUTH, Minn. – Minnesota’s forests can sustain logging 5.5 million cords of wood each year, about double the current level, according to an analysis for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released this week.

The DNR, in the first major update of the state’s 1994 generic environmental impact statement on tree cutting and its impact on the overall forest, estimates the current harvest is about 2.7 million cords per year.

That’s down 1 million cords from 2006 and down 1.5 million cords from the peak harvest of about

4.2 million cords in the mid-1990s, said Keith Jacobson, DNR forest products utilization program leader.

The study, conducted by a University of Minnesota researcher, looked at how much can be cut on all 16.3 million acres of Minnesota forest available to loggers – including state, county, federal and private forest lands.

The 1994 GEIS concluded that paper mills, board plants and other industries could use 5.5 million cords of wood each year cut in Minnesota without serious ecological impacts – although the report indicated that more care had to be taken to protect forests near waterways and to protect old growth trees, soils and forest birds.

The 1994 assessment that 5.5 million cords was sustainable was controversial at the time. Timber industry interests said it was far too low, while environmental groups said that much tree cutting would cause widespread loss of habitat for species that like older, bigger trees.

Whether any new or existing industries will take note of the extra wood the DNR says is available isn’t clear. Officials say there’s little chance the harvest would get to 5.5 million cords anytime soon.

Since logging was a hot-button issue in the 1990s, several Minnesota mills and board plants have closed and demand has dropped as worldwide supply increased faster than demand. The recent global recession also hit hard.

The study also found that the amount of overall forested land has remained relatively steady since 1994 while the average age of trees available for cutting had decreased as more older trees have been cut and more young trees have sprouted or been planted over the past 15 years.


The Duluth News Tribune and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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