National forest promotes conservation with partnersIn 2013, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest celebrates its 80th anniversary of establishment in Wisconsin and the beginning of its conservation through wise use and restoration.
By: Paul Strong, Superior Telegram
In 2013, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest celebrates its 80th anniversary of establishment in Wisconsin and the beginning of its conservation through wise use and restoration. The Civilian Conservation Corps is also celebrating its 80-year anniversary, and the history of the government programs are inextricably linked.
Together, the Forest Service and the CCC’s replanted cutover and burned over lands, repaired soil erosion damage, built roads and trails, and constructed fire towers, campgrounds, picnic areas and accesses to lakes and rivers.
The “CCC boys” and the early employees of the Forest Service got the ball rolling during the first 10 years. For the last 70 years, Forest Service employees, partners and communities have kept it going.
As we view the heavily forested landscape of northern Wisconsin today, it is hard to imagine what the communities and undeveloped lands looked and felt like then. Recovery from the Great Depression was starting, but unemployment was high and demand for forest products had plummeted. Many businesses that thrived during the brief period of cut and run logging were gone. Lands on which ill-fated agricultural attempts had been made were being abandoned. A series of drought years had left forests and logging slash dry. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land were burning annually. Communities were struggling to survive.
Under the provisions of the Weeks Act and Clarke-McNary Act, on the lands that were purchased to become the national forest, work began on the restoration of soils, waters and forests to protect watersheds and make forestlands productive for timber. Eighty years of restoration and wise use has resulted in lands much better poised to provide goods and services and remain resilient in the face of uncertain future conditions.
The Forest Service has always been an agency that uses a “partnership model” to get its work done. The CCC was our first significant partner. Since then, under authorities provided us by Congress, we leverage the annual appropriations that fund our agency to accomplish more work and to provide greater value to the citizens of America whose forests these are.
In 2012, numerous partners provided nearly $1.5 million of additional capacity to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest through volunteer work, in-kind services and cash. Some of the partners include federally recognized tribes, the state of Wisconsin, colleges and universities, local governments and nonprofit organizations like the Ruffed Grouse Society and Trout Unlimited. Additionally, the CNNF works with entities that coordinate efforts across larger geographies and multiple owners.
For example, we are part of Cooperative Weed Management Area Councils and work with recreation groups like the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association and Wisconsin ATV association on trail development and maintenance.
There is a need to expand and accelerate important conservation work in the forest and we are constantly exploring new partnership opportunities and other legal ways to stretch the appropriated funds we receive.
One of the most promising ways is through “stewardship contracting,” which allows us to enter agreements or contracts with entities that will trade the completion of on-the-ground conservation work for the value of timber sales we offer.
Timber sales help us meet some of the conservation goals in our comprehensive land management plan and the service work helps meet other conservation goals. Our knowledge and use of this authority is growing. We are pleased to have recently been approved to move forward on a stewardship project in Bayfield County that engaged local government officials and interested citizens in designing projects to improve key roads, soil erosion and streams in exchange for timber that can be sold to meet other healthy forest conservation goals.
As the forest supervisor for the CNNF, I have the privilege of working with and representing forest employees who pour their hearts and souls into the important work of making sure these lands and resources are used wisely and are sustainable into the future. These are high integrity individuals who follow regulations and policies that govern our business, but who also are constantly striving to find more efficient and creative ways to accomplish our work. They live in the many towns and villages in the 11 counties where national forest lands are located. Their children attend schools in these areas. They volunteer in churches, adult and youth programs, and service projects. Some serve on school boards. They take great pride in their work.
As forest employees, we remain committed to the restoration and wise use efforts started by our predecessors 80 years ago. I invite you to explore and enjoy your national forest and the idea of partnering with us to start the next 80 years of conservation of these lands.
Paul Strong is the forest supervisor for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.