After reading Steve Maxson’s well-written letter from Sept. 15, (‘WMAs should be managed for wildlife, not timber industry’) and a previous op-ed from the Grand Forks Herald a couple of weeks back, I am compelled to present the other side of the coin.
First off, I am a retired Minnesota Department of Natural Resources career forester. Consequently, I have a different perspective on the issue, and can offer an opinion based upon actual field experiences.
Back in the mid-70s, harvest plans were developed at the local level with both the forester and wildlife manager sitting down together and agreeing to where and how much harvest would occur in the next fiscal year. It worked well, but time and technology changed that.
In the late 90s, the process changed to a statewide harvest focus. Wildlife managers, through a process called Subsection Forest Resource Management Planning (SFRMP), were invited to have direct input into these 10-year plans. In addition, ecologists, hydrologists, and the public were invited to participate in developing harvest plans for each geological subsection. Very intentionally, harvest planning is not done in isolation of other professionals; the process is highly inclusive of other natural resource management disciplines. While foresters sought opinions from colleagues in other disciplines, management of WMAs was exclusively planned by the local wildlife managers.
Over the decades, beginning in the late 70s, foresters have often identified areas within state forests that should, could, and would become Ruffed Grouse Management Areas. They were developed through collaboration with local wildlife managers with timber harvest being the primary management tool. Today, 49 RGMAs exist in Minnesota containing over 100,000 acres, and 184 miles of hunter walking trails. Some of these are on WMAs, some are on state forest lands. I will hazard to guess that nearly every one of them is managed and enhanced through timber harvest.
I once asked a wildlife manager what she considered the primary management tool she had available for her WMAs. Without hesitation her answer was “timber harvest.”
While I agree with Maxson that harvesting of oak on WMAs in the Bemidji area is best left off the list, timber harvest on WMAs is important and necessary for many species of wildlife. It is certainly not a method of placating the timber industry and should be considered as a tool for managing most WMAs.