Wildlife managers object to Minnesota agency's timber plan
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Department of Natural Resources leadership is mismanaging the upcoming timber harvest, according to state wildlife leaders.
In a letter obtained by Minnesota Public Radio News , 28 DNR workers said the mishandling could risk altering state forest lands for the animals that depend on them, as well as visitors. The group — comprised of wildlife managers, assistant wildlife managers and scientists — outlined its concerns in the letter last month to Commissioner Sarah Strommen and Assistant Commissioner Bob Meier.
The letter stated that the DNR's plan to increase timber harvest by 8.75% doesn't account for the best available science. They "do not believe it is scientifically honest or transparent to say that the 10-year timber plan is 'beneficial to wildlife,'" especially on wildlife management areas.
Critics argue the agency's plan could damage certain habitats and worsen invasive species concerns, largely because of extensive clear-cutting of forests.
DNR leadership denied the claims and stands behind its sustainable timber harvest analysis, or STHA.
"The STHA used the best data we have and explored many alternatives," Strommen wrote in a response to the letter. "In fact, most of the staff and modeling effort focused on understanding issues around non-timber values."
Deputy DNR Commissioner Barb Naramore said the plan stays true to the intent of wildlife management areas.
"We recognize that every management action we take benefits some kinds of wildlife more than other kinds of wildlife," Naramore said. "We are managing our wildlife management areas for an abundance of a variety of wildlife species."
The wildlife managers said that they're committed to finding the target amount of timber under DNR's plan, but disagree with the current way of doing so.
"It is our opinion that in order to partially mitigate the negative effects of annually harvesting 870,000 (and possibly more tamarack and ash) cords to a large number of wildlife species, there must be changes to how the STHA is being implemented," the letter said.
Among several suggested changes to the analysis, the wildlife managers are asking for less of the harvest to come from the lands they manage. Currently, 12% of the harvest would come from wildlife lands.
DNR leadership said wildlife managers can reiterate their concerns during annual examination of stands put up for harvest.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org