I applaud the integrity and courage of 28 Department of Natural Resource wildlife managers who recently signed a letter to Commissioner Sarah Strommen detailing their serious concerns about the new Sustainable Timber Harvest Analysis (STHA), which requires that 12 percent of a new annual 875,000 cord timber harvest quota on state lands must come from Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). This action by managers was unprecedented and should be alarming to anyone who uses WMAs!
By state law, WMAs are to be managed for wildlife -- not the timber industry. The STHA fails to meet this directive and clearly favors the timber industry over wildlife. There should be no mandatory timber harvest quotas on WMAs! Of course, there is a need for timber harvest on WMAs, but this should be determined primarily by the local wildlife manager. This harvest should not be forced by a computer modeler in St. Paul with an artificial annual harvest quota to fill. This quota is arguably unsustainably large and is designed to placate the desires of the timber industry. This is not a science-based approach to optimize wildlife habit on WMAs, but rather a political and market driven approach to maximize timber harvest even when it is demonstrably detrimental to wildlife.
As only one example, in the Bemidji area, 80-year-old stands of oak will be scheduled for harvest under the STHA. These oaks provide food and shelter for many types of wildlife and can continue to provide these benefits for another 100 years or more. There is no wildlife benefit achieved by harvesting these stands but managers may have no choice under the STHA. If harvested, these stands will not provide these wildlife benefits again during our lifetimes.
Deputy Commissioner Barb Naramore has stated that wildlife managers will have input into harvest decisions via a "robust interdisciplinary process," but may be overruled. What this most likely means, of course, is that if a manager's legitimate concerns get in the way of filling the mandatory harvest quota, they will be overruled. Bet on it!
St. Paul has forbidden the wildlife managers to speak to the media regarding this issue. Therefore, it falls to those of us who agree that WMAs should be managed for wildlife rather than commercial timber production to make our voices heard so we can change this flawed policy.
Maxson is a retired DNR wildlife research biologist.