Forest policies in Wisconsin have been evolving rapidly in recent decades. There has been much debate regarding the effects that changing policies have on current forest-based operations and potential future growth in Wisconsin’s forest products industry. Large, important information gaps exist regarding the costs and benefits of forest policies, regulations and guidelines in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin FY2014-2015 Budget included funding for a study of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) forestry and forest fire prevention practices. The Wisconsin Forestry Practices Study is intended to obtain research results that will help guide decisions and policy development for long-term capital investment in forest-based manufacturing industries while ensuring the conservation of biodiversity.
Funding for the Study is a $600,000 grant, over 2 years, from the DNR Forestry Account to the Great Lakes Timber Professionals (GLTPA) and the Wisconsin County Forest Association (WCFA). GLTPA and WCFA will jointly oversee the Study execution.
GLTPA and WCFA have selected the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) to serve as the coordinating research agency to manage the Study. NCASI is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(6) research institute formed in 1943 focusing on environmental and sustainability topics relevant to forest management and the manufacture of forest products. GLTPA and WCFA will direct research needs and objectives to NCASI.
The focus of the Study will be to address the research question; “How does Wisconsin continue to provide sustainably grown wood fiber to support competitive wood using industries in the future?” The study will provide information to better understand where efficiencies can be gained ensuring Wisconsin’s forest products industry can remain competitive and vibrant, while assuring the ecological, economic and social benefits of Wisconsin forests continue for future generations. The Study is not to evaluate policy alternatives, but to fill in knowledge gaps that will inform current and future policy questions.
In December 2013, the Study Plan was developed by GLTPA and WCFA and supported by Wisconsin Council on Forestry (COF). GLTPA and WCFA then directed NCASI to distribute Request for Proposal (RFP) 1.0 to interested individuals and organizations soliciting proposals on one or more of the following research topics.
- What is the availability of wood fiber in the state – by broad product categories, region, and ownership – now and in the future? How have changes in land ownership and management objectives, experienced over the last 15 years, affected the supply of wood fiber?
- What are the economic and ecological consequences (cost/benefits) of selected aspects of forestry policies, regulations and guidelines in Wisconsin?
- What forestry-related factors are expected to enhance or reduce the competitiveness of forest-based manufacturing in Wisconsin?
The following is a list the projects that were awarded under RFP 1.0.
- ‘Wisconsin Wood Supply Assessment’ will be conducted by the Center for Natural Resources Assessment and Decision Support at Virginia Tech with Dr. Stephen P. Prisley as the Principal Investigator. Estimated completion date of September 2015.
- ‘Wood Supply Chain Component Cost Analysis; A Comparison of WI and U.S. Regional Cost’ will be conducted by Steigerwaldt Land Services and Forest2Market with Forrest M. Gibeault as the PI partnering with Peter J. Coutu of Forest2 Market. Estimated completion date of December 2014.
- ‘An Analysis of: Single Tree Selection Order-of-Removal Procedures in Northern Hardwood Forest and Rotation Lengths in Red Pine Plantations and Aspen Forests’ will be conducted by Steigerwaldt Land Services with Forrest M. Gibeault as the Principal Investigator. Estimated completion date December 2015.
In mid-July of 2014, GLTPA/WCFA sponsored a Forest-Based Manufacturing Industry Stakeholder Workshop. Workshop participants identified five economically burdensome categories (listed below in order of importance).
- Seasonal Harvesting Restrictions (i.e. oak wilt, Annosum, invasive species, T&E species)
- Managed Forest Tax Law administration
- General Harvesting Restrictions (i.e. rotation age, order of removal in hardwood stands)
- Forest Certification
Input from the Workshop was then used to develop RFP 2.0. RFP 2.0 was recently distributed to solicit proposals that will address all of the following questions related to the economic and ecological consequences of selected timber harvesting restrictions (both seasonal and general) in Wisconsin.
- What is the scope of selected timber harvesting restrictions in Wisconsin, and does the potential exist for these restrictions to shift forest harvesting from summer to winter months?
- What are the economic consequences of the timber harvesting restrictions identified in question 1?
- What are the ecological consequences of the timber harvesting restrictions identified in question 1?
Proposals for RFP 2.0 are due November 15, 2014.
Learn more about the Study at http://study.wisconsinforestry.org