Michigan has extensive forest land totaling nearly 4 million acres in state ownership. There is more federal and state owned land in Michigan than any other state east of the Mississippi River. Forest-related jobs are especially important to the local economies of the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula — areas with chronically high unemployment. The Department of Natural Resources manages state forest land for recreation and timber production, but more intensive management of state forests by DNR would lead to the creation of badly needed jobs in northern Michigan.
“Allowable cut” is a term used by foresters that simply means harvesting the amount of new forest growth. Another way to look at the allowable cut is utilizing the interest without touching the principal. The problem is that DNR is not even making the “interest” available for harvesting. In a study conducted for DNR in 2005 titled “Michigan State Forest Timber Harvest Trends,” Dr. Larry Pedersen found that timber growth on state forests was estimated to be increasing while timber harvest was remaining static resulting in the Michigan having one of the greatest absolute amounts of timber net growth in excess of removal of any state.
One immediate step that should be taken by Gov. Rick Snyder is to direct the DNR to make the allowable cut available for harvest each year. The objections by the DNR to making the allowable cut available are predictable – they do not have sufficient resources to put up that much timber and there are too many competing interests. If DNR foresters are not capable of handling the job, private forest companies would be willing to assist them in “cruising” the timber and laying out the sales.
Actively managed forests are healthy forests. New growth forests absorb more CO2 than mature and dying forests and any Michigan hunter knows that freshly logged areas are among the best places to find deer.
The wise use of our natural resources has historically been critical to a flourishing Michigan economy. It is past time that we get back to the basics and utilize our forest resources to create jobs. The forests are in Michigan and the good paying jobs of harvesting and bringing the timber to market cannot be outsourced to China. Now all we need is the political will and leadership to make it happen.