Agreement reached on logging in Minnesota Wildlife Management Areas

Agreement reached on logging in Minnesota Wildlife Management Areas

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have reached an agreement on how and why logging will be conducted in Wildlife Management Areas and Aquatic Management Areas in the state of Minnesota.

Prompted by some elected state leaders, DNR officials in recent years have moved to cut more trees in WMAs, as well as state forests, to help feed the appetite of the timber industry. the state.

But critics, including many current and former wildlife managers, said the logging was poorly planned and neglected wildlife habitat and public access, the primary goals of WMAs. Several state biologists have said the planned level of heavy logging will jeopardize the habitat of several species, including deer and bears in some areas. Critics also note that $4 from every Minnesota small game hunting license goes to the WMA fund.

Because federal sporting goods tax money was used to acquire the land for many WMAs, and because federal law requires that money be spent on fish and wildlife habitat and l access to recreation – and not for the management of the wood – the federal agency intervened.


A map shows the 4 miles of hunter trails in the Anchor Lake Wildlife Management Area in Eveleth.

Steve Kuchera / File 2021 / Duluth News Tribune

In November 2020, a coalition of more than a dozen conservation and environmental groups – the Izaak Walton League Chapters, the National Wildlife Federation and the Duluth-based United Northern Sportsmen’s Club – sent the DNR to find a resolution of the problem. The two sides negotiated a compromise for nearly two years.

First reported in the News Tribune in August 2019, the WMA logging issue has driven a wedge inside and outside the DNR between competing interests in state forests, with DNR leaders, foresters and the timber industry on one side and DNR wildlife biologists, conservation and environmental groups on the other.

The deal has only been released to specific media outlets who request it and has not been publicly announced by any of the agencies. Apparently reached on December 5, it includes five major points:

  • Minnesota DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen and DNR Director of Fish and Wildlife Dave Olfelt will provide written communication to DNR staff that reaffirms the agency’s leadership and commitment to the management of forest habitat on the WMA and AMA/FMA which is made to achieve fish and wildlife species and habitat management goals and objectives for each unit. … This message will also reaffirm MNR’s commitment to the requirements of the federal Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration grant programs funded by federal sporting goods taxes.
  • The DNR reaffirms its commitment to complete the master plans for the “major unit” WMAs and to develop a systematic planning framework for the remaining WMAs. These plans will include public participation and describe how active habitat management, including timber harvesting, is used to achieve wildlife habitat management objectives.
  • MNR will finalize its procedures document which clarifies the roles of Fish and Wildlife, Forestry, and Ecological and Water Resources personnel in conducting forest habitat management activities on FMZs and AMZs.
  • MNR will provide training to Fish and Wildlife, Forestry, and Ecological and Water Resources staff to ensure understanding of MNR’s planning framework, forest management policies and procedures, specific requirements that must be followed. on WMAs and AMAs, and the requirements of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Grant Program and the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration.
  • USFWS and DNR will develop protocols for field monitoring visits that will evaluate forest habitat management activities on WMAs and AMAs to ensure they are meeting fish management objectives and of wildlife and that they comply with the requirements of the federal grant program. USFWS and DNR will jointly conduct field monitoring visits in a manner that promotes communication, learning, and transparency.

Minnesota has 1,440 public WMAs totaling nearly 1.3 million acres, although only some of them are forested. The state has more than 700 AMAs covering some 700 miles of shoreline, much of which is forested.

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