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DNR lifts Brule River State Forest logging cap

A deer stands in a field along State Highway 27 at the Brule River State Forest. A state cap on logging in the Brule River State Forest was changed to allow for better management of the forest. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

By Kevin Murphy

For the Superior Telegram

MADISON – The Department of Natural Resources Board last week removed the 600-acre cap on timber harvesting in the Brule River State Forest to better manage the forest and meet a growing demand for lumber, according to state officials.

Spanning the banks of the Bois Brule River, a renowned fishery in eastern Douglas County, the 47,000-acre state forest has needed its master plan amended since 6,500 acres were acquired in 2007, said Dave Schulz, forest superintendent.

The 600-acre harvest limit was an arbitrary number unique to this state forest, which is managed to sustain a variety of commercial and public interests, said Schulz.

Schulz acknowledged that limiting the annual timber harvest to 600 acres was "a mistake on our part … and impeded our ability to manage the forest," where timber matured and died beyond the need to regenerate the forest.

Logging is not permitted within 400 feet of the banks of the Bois Brule River, renowned for fishing and whitewater canoeing, and that remains unchanged in the amended master plan, said Schulz.

The 600-acre annual harvest cap thwarted the DNR’s ability to manage the state forest’s "health" through selective thinning of brush and undesirable trees species, he said.

"We have forest management goals and not being able to selectively cut enough acreage meant that less desirable species can take over parts of the forest," he said.

Replacing the arbitrary acreage gap will be an annual allowable harvesting goal compatible with the forest’s needs for regeneration, Schulz said.

While the 6,500 acres added in 2007 are located at the northern end of the state forest, the areas that need harvesting are spread through the property and will be put up for bid in the near future.

A call to a spokesman for the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association for comment on lifting the BFSF’s annual harvest cap was not returned before deadline.

The DNR received 22 written comments on lifting the 600-acre cap but some opposed any management practices, according to materials submitted to the DNR Board.

The Brule River State Forest is divided into 11 management areas each with a goal, which includes restoring habitat in to pre-civilization conditions; encouraging conifers, chiefly white pine and spruce, in areas where aspen now predominates; and promoting red and jack pines in sandy soil areas to encourage timber production.

Certain wildlife species thrive in recently harvested areas, which should please bird and deer hunters and watchers, Schulz said.

Amending the forest’s master plan allows increased logging at time when some area mills have been short on logs, Schulz said. However, he reiterated that lifting the acreage cap does not mean the forest will be managed to meet the needs of saw mills. Instead, the forest will continue to be managed for the public’s needs, which are varied, he said.

Logging activity will not cross hiking trails and an effort will be made to keep trails open while logging is occurring in that location, he said.

Bids will be solicited this spring to harvest 1,100 or 1,200 acres to meet some "catch up" needs, said Schulz. Then the harvest level will lower to 900 to 1,000 acres annually, he said.

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