DNR Forest Cutting Policies

Following are the results of a telephone interview conducted by Dennis Batchelet on August 11, 2006, with Jeffrey Olsen, DNR State Forest Manager at Boulder, Jct., Wisconsin.

    I should preface the following with the circumstances that gave rise to the interview. The DNR clear cut a portion of state forest abutting Duck Rd. in the spring of 2006. Residents were upset because they had not been notified, the cutting was done right up to Duck Rd., and lots of debris was left on the ground. At our annual meeting, August 5, 2006, several residents were upset when the topic came up.

    In an attempt to provide more details of the lumber harvesting plan, I agreed to contact the DNR and find out what I could about what they had done and what they planned to do on the NW side of the lake early in 2007.

    On August 11th, I had a cordial telephone conversation with DNR forest manager, Jeffrey Olsen, in which he explained to me the process and strategy of the harvesting plan to eventually include 229 acres near Horsehead Lake.  Essentially, the windstorm of 1999 was the precipitating event that caused a policy [in effect for 70 years] change, making our woods a "production" forest from a "natural" forest. At that time, there were so many downed trees that the state felt it necessary to manage the land differently. The master plan that specifies the cutting of wood near Horsehead Lake was developed over a 12 year time frame. It was put into effect in October, 2005 following extensive study and hearings. There was a public hearing on the matter and it was advertised in local newspapers. Nobody from Horsehead Lake appeared at the hearing.

    Mr. Olsen said Horsehead Lake is only one of  22 zoning areas in the region being managed in the long-term plan. He said the danger of fire was increasing by the year and young trees did not get sufficient sunlight to grow. The bigger trees were shadowing the small ones and acorns and pine cones could not germinate under those conditions. While the area near Duck Rd. was "clear cut", the area to be cut near Kania's property on the NW side of the lake will not be. All merchantable aspen and white birch will be cut.  In addition, only those oak, maple, and pine marked with orange paint will be harvested. They are staying clear of an eagle nest in the area until after nesting season. There are one or two small ponds that will maintain a 100' buffer. Once the trees are cut, it will be approximately 45 years before it is considered again.

 Here are some of the questions I asked Mr. Olsen:

1)  How did the long-range plan evolve?
The plan was developed over 12 years and was reviewed by ecologists, civil culturalists, fish biologists, and wildlife biologists, before it was formalized. Habitats for animals and fish were considered as well as diversity of habitats. Only after the public hearings, was the policy formalized and ordered carried out.

2)  Why couldn't 100' be left by drives/roadways, besides Hwy. D and Hwy. 47?
That is not DNR policy, which is governed by WI statute.

3)  Why didn't DNR personnel contact contiguous landowners or the District prior to cutting?
They tried to reach them, but with so many seasonal residents it was impossible to keep trying.

4)  How prominently does money figure into the cutting?
According to Mr. Olsen, money is only a bi-product of the process. The DNR puts out the bid for the work and they take the highest bidder. The DNR does not attempt to balance the WI budget by selling trees. The money, called the "Stump" revenue, is placed in the General Forestry Fund to combine with monies raised through a state mil tax on property. The DNR must then compete for that money along with lots of other agencies. The money for purchase of land, comes from the Stewardship Fund and that's completely different. So the DNR does not cut trees to get money to buy more land to manage.

5)  Is there any way our District can provide input while decisions about cutting are being made?
Yes. If Horsehead Lake P&R District #1 will send a letter to Mr. Olsen, he will place it in a file. When policy decisions are being made regarding our area, our officials will be contacted.

6)  Will the DNR re-plant in the areas being cut?
No. The area is considered to have an excellent natural generation rate. It will be inspected in a year or two. If it looks as if re-planting is necessary, it will be done.

7)  Is there any oversight done to evaluate DNR work or master plans?
Yes. There are two independent international organizations, the SFI and FSC whose purpose it is to inspect, evaluate, and certify good forest practices. Within the past four years, one of these organizations completed an audit of our local DNR forest practices and found them to be "excellent".

Final Note: In the letter I write to Mr. Olsen, I will not only indicate our willingness to be informed of policies undergoing evaluation, but I will urge him to notify our residents in writing of changes in land policy affecting them. Hopefully, that will help to maintain a good working relationship between our District and the DNR.