Timber sales increase in national forest

RHINELANDER, Wis. (AP) — A national forest in northwest Wisconsin expects to sell its largest amount of timber since at least the mid-1990s.

The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest may sell 123 million board feet of timber by the end of fiscal 2017, WJFW-TV reported. That would mark the fifth annual increase in a row for the forest, which is nearing its maximum yield.

Forest Supervisor Paul Strong said this year’s expected yield is “absolutely great news.” The forest’s management plan aims to sell 131 million board feet annually.

Strong said the timber program has grown thanks to the National Forest Services’ increased authority under the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill and policies allowing organizations to remove small trees and keep the timber.

He also cited the federal Good Neighbor Authority policy, which has allowed the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to manage the sale of about 25 million board feet of timber in the national forest annually.

Strong said he hopes to build a sustainable timber program.

“We’d like to minimally be able to stay where we’re at. If circumstances work out with funding, staffing, and working with partners that we can do a bit more, we’d be happy to get that done as well,” Strong said.

But he noted that wildfires in the western U.S. this year may impact local funding, as the U.S. Forest Service shifts its budget.

“A number of years ago, (fire control was) less than 20 percent of our budget. Now it’s more than half,” Strong said. “It’s projected that it could be as much as three-quarters. When your budget cap is fixed, that squeezes all of the other resource programs that the American citizens want to have delivered.”

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