Companies developing new forest rules bought timber where the rules were allegedly broken

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By Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner

Four companies that are members of a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources committee developing new logging rules have purchased timber from northern Wisconsin lakes in which local residents have alleged rules are frequently broken, documents show. obtained by the Wisconsin Examiner.

For nearly two years, a group of residents who live and work near the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest have alleged that the MRN authorize the felling of trees too close to the lakes.

The DNR has a set of guidelines for forestry known as Best Management Practices (BMPs), which in state forests must be followed. The BMPs state that in riparian management areas, at a buffer of 100 feet from the shoreline, logging can only be done at a certain density. There are also exemptions that require more conservative or more intensive cutting in the RMZ, depending on ground conditions and slope.

Northwoods residents Ardis Berghoff and John Schwarzmann have alleged that loggers are cutting too many trees too close to shore, which can harm water, cause erosion and damage habitats for wildlife that depends on it. the region.

The DNR disputed the allegations, and several audits of logging in the area came to different conclusions. Berghoff and Schwarzmann, who is the former forestry supervisor for the Wisconsin Board of Public Lands Commissioners, completed their own survey of 15 lakes in the region and found that in nine of them, approved logging operations by the MRN violate the BMPs.

The audits were conducted by third-party certification groups. The certification process is an important part of the industry’s efforts to harvest trees responsibly. MNR and logging companies rely on certification from groups such as the Forest Stewardship Council to confirm that forest operations are managed sustainably.

For the first time since 2011, MNR is working to update the BMPs and has convened a Forest Management Best Practices Advisory Committee for this purpose.

Committee members include a number of timber industry employees and after its initial meetings, Berghoff, Schwarzmann and other activists grew concerned that the updated rules would relax BMP requirements and codify rule violation. After a committee meeting in October where members suggested removing the minimum width required for an RMZ, their fears seemed to come true.

The duo called for a halt to all logging in RMZs while the committee works to update the rules.

“And while your defined processes seem very thoughtful and you cover a lot of steps,” Berghoff said in May, “in the meantime, for the remainder of 2022 and all 2023 leaflets with RMZs will continue to be cut with the conditions I just described, and the DNR has the ability to say “Whoa, let’s stop cutting in the RMZ”.

Forest industry representatives on the committee said such measures would cost companies too much time and money.

“There is economic potential and impact on individual loggers who bid on timber sales,” said Bethany Polchowski, forester at Biewer Lumber. “That’s their bottom line.”

While industry representatives worried that all work in the RMZs would halt as the committee began the years-long process of crafting new rules, several of the committee’s member companies were buying timber from the plots. exact where Berghoff and Schwarzmann sounded the alarm, according to documents.

Timber truck tickets

Each time a trucker drives a transport of timber from a logging site to a buyer, the trucker must fill out a ticket indicating where the timber came from and which company it is destined for. These tickets show that four companies with employees on the committee purchased cut timber near three of the lakes in Berghoff and Schwarzmann’s survey – Trout, Upper Gresham and Whitney.

Conservationists say companies making new logging rules when buying timber from land in alleged violation of those rules is a “blatant conflict of interest”.

“Forestry companies absolutely shouldn’t set environmental standards for the wood they buy and sell,” said Andy Olsen, a senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Madison. “It’s a blatant conflict of interest. Wood cut from public lands in Wisconsin should not be considered “sustainable” under these practices. Cutting riparian forests harms habitat and waters – and sustainability. If they disagree, these companies should provide examples of how they have recommended stronger BMPs that go against their financial interests. Let’s see.”

“We need an independent audit from DNR Forestry,” he added.

From June 2020 to September 2021, Biewer Lumber purchased 12 truckloads of red pine, spruce and hardwood from parcels near Upper Gresham Lake and Whitney Lake.

During the same period, the Packaging Corporation of America purchased 93 truckloads of aspen, birch, hardwood and oak from Trout Lake, Upper Gresham Lake and Whitney Lake and Louisiana-Pacific purchased 57 truckloads of aspen, pine red and hardwoods of Whitney Lake.

Ahlstrom-Munskjö purchased 76 truckloads of spruce, hardwood, balsam, birch, white pine and red pine from Upper Gresham Lake and Whitney Lake.

Biewer Lumber and Packaging Corporation of America did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Ahlstrom-Munskjö said it relies on the external certification process to ensure its wood comes from sustainable sources.

“As an industry, we were asked to participate in an advisory committee specifically designed to address good water quality management practices. When we buy wood from a supplier, we require our suppliers to be SFI® certified, which ensures they are adhering to best water quality management practices,” spokesperson Addie wrote. Teeters, in an email. “We have adhered to WI DNR standards in all of our business practices, and are one of the region’s leaders in sustainable forestry practices, maintaining triple chain-of-custody certification to FSC®, SFI® and PEFC™. As a company focused on sustainability in the state, we value the opportunity to participate in various levels of sustainable forest management. »

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A Louisiana-Pacific spokesperson also said the certification process has confirmed that their wood is from sustainable sources.

“At LP, we are proud advocates of conserving and improving our planet,” spokeswoman Breeanna Straessle said in an email. “To ensure a sustainable business model, it is our duty to maintain the highest levels of sustainable forest management. Our Environmental Stewardship Policy requires us to meet or exceed the requirements of environmental laws and regulations and to manage natural resources responsibly and sustainably.

“Our commitment to sustainable forestry is evidenced by our third-party forest certification to independent Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) standards,” she continued. “To ensure compliance with SFI fiber sourcing standards, wood purchased from the Northern Highland-American Legion (NHAL) State Forest must meet all requirements of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), including those established in the Best Management Practices (BMP) Field Manual. MNR and its third-party forest certification auditors have confirmed compliance with the BMPs for timber harvested in the NHAL area. The BMPs state that “for the purposes of management, RMZs are discretionary depending on the characteristics of the forest stand, harvesting prescriptions, forester preference and logger experience”.

The DNR did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact editor Ruth Conniff with any questions: [email protected] Follow the Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

This story first appeared in the Wisconsin Examiner and is republished with permission via a Creative Commons license. See the original story, here.

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