Good Neighbor Authority to improve forest health, create economic opportunity
MADISON — Wisconsin will be the first state east of the Mississippi to participate in forestry management under an expanded federal-state partnership effort that aims to increase and streamline work on federal lands. The Department of Natural Resources will be working side by side with the U.S. Forest Service to ensure the program delivers environmental as well as economic benefits here in Wisconsin.
Called the Good Neighbor Authority, the program was expanded nationally in the 2014 Farm Bill and allows the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to enter into cooperative agreements with states to perform forest, rangeland and watershed restoration projects on federal and non-federal lands. In Wisconsin, DNR and USFS leadership anticipate the partnership will facilitate forest and watershed work on the 1.5 million acre Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. As part of the national forest’s approved forest management plan, the results will create economic opportunities through increased timber sales which supports one of Wisconsin’s largest economic sectors.
“Wisconsin is a leader in forest management and watershed restoration and the Good Neighbor Authority allows us to work hand in hand with the U.S. Forest Service to increase the public benefits from the federal forest,” said Governor Scott Walker. “Our very first project will help support jobs in northern Wisconsin by increasing the amount of timber offered for sale. It will provide more of this renewable resource for producing valuable paper and wood products, while improving desired wildlife habitat.”
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp credited careful management of Wisconsin’s forest for sustaining a vibrant wood and paper products industry.
“Wisconsin’s paper industry has retained the No. 1 spot in the nation for more than 60 years,” Stepp said. “In addition to the nearly 60,000 jobs and $4 billion in annual wages from the forest products sector, more than 6 million acres of Wisconsin’s forest lands are open to the public for uses including hunting, hiking, bird-watching and other recreational activities. I am pleased that through the Good Neighbor Authority we can work closely with our USFS partners to build on the great work that they do, as together we grow the economy and provide an even better recreational experience for the public.”
Under the agreement, the amount of timber offered for harvest under approved forest management plans is anticipated to increase by approximately 25 percent to more than 100 million board feet in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in 2016. That is still below the level authorized in the approved plan for the forest.
DNR’s work will focus on preparing, awarding and administering timber sales that have already had all the inventory and planning work completed, said Paul DeLong, chief state forester with DNR.
“We are pleased that we can partner with the USFS to support implementation of the approved plan and increase the public benefits that the forest provides,” DeLong said. “Most people don’t realize that Wisconsin forests grow one and a half times more wood than is harvested each year. Managing forests to create desired habitat while removing forest products to meet the needs of a growing population and to sustain local communities is an environmental, economic and social win-win-win,”
“The Good Neighbor Authority is a terrific way for the Forest Service to partner with state agencies to make improvements to the land,” said U.S. Forest Service Eastern Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson. “I’m excited to have a new tool that allows us to work together in unprecedented ways as we move forward with state and community partnerships into the future.”
“Our first Good Neighbor Authority agreement with the state reflects several months of meaningful collaboration and establishes the groundwork for an even deeper partnership between our agencies going forward,” said Paul Strong, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest supervisor. “We are fortunate to have the capacity and forest management expertise of the Wisconsin DNR and its employees to help increase the work we can accomplish on the forest, which will more closely fulfill the goals and objectives of our Land and Resource Management Plan.”
A portion of the receipts from Good Neighbor Authority timber sales will reimburse the state for its costs to do this work, with remaining funds available to be used by the state of Wisconsin to conduct additional restoration activities that will be identified through a collaborative process. To learn more about the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and its Forest Plan and activities, visit: www.fs.usda.gov/main/cnnf/home (exit DNR) and navigate to “Land & Resource Management. More information about Wisconsin’s forest management can be found by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword “forestry.”