DNR increases 10-year sustainable timber harvest target

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced it has set a new 10-year sustainable timber harvest at 870,000 cords offered for sale annually from DNR-managed forest lands. This represents an 8.75 percent increase in the harvest target. 

The DNR will also launch a special five-year initiative that could offer up to 30,000 additional cords of ash and tamarack in response to the threat posed by emerald ash borer and eastern larch beetle, two invasive species that kill ash and tamarack trees.

The DNR manages 5 million acres of forest lands – 29 percent of the state’s total forest lands. Timber harvesting occurs on 2.75 million acres of DNR-managed lands that are in state forests, wildlife management areas, and school and university trust lands. These lands provide about 30 percent of the state’s wood supply for a forest products industry that employs 64,000 people and has a $17.1 billion annual economic impact.

The new sustainable harvest was determined after more than a year of scientific analysis, discussions with stakeholders — including conservation organizations and the forest industry — and public input.

“The DNR conducted a rigorous analysis of our state’s sustainable timber supply. We are confident this new harvest level strikes the right balance between the needs of clean water, wildlife, the forest industry, and recreation,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “This decision reflects careful consideration of the multitude of uses, habitat needs and ecological benefits that come from DNR-managed forest lands.”

For the past 15 years, the DNR’s annual sale target has been 800,000 cords of timber. Given that forests are dynamic, ever-changing systems, it was time to do a new, full-scale assessment of the timber harvest levels.

In 2016, Gov. Mark Dayton called for an updated assessment to ensure DNR forest management meets the state’s goals of commercial timber production, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, clean water, and recreation.

The DNR sells a variety of tree species from the land it manages, including aspen, red, white, and jack pine, maple, red and white oak, ash, white and black spruce, cedar, and tamarack.

Over the past two decades, the DNR has worked to reduce an oversupply of older-aged aspen on DNR-managed forest lands. That oversupply has been largely eliminated and these lands now have a more desired age distribution of aspen that will support valuable wildlife populations and water quality. As a result, future aspen harvest levels will gradually decrease from 400,000 cords annually to 360,000 cords. However, harvest of some other species will increase.

The final report and more information about the analysis are posted on the DNR’s project webpage at www.mndnr.gov/forestry/harvest-analysis.