VILAS COUNTY NEWS-REVIEW/THE THREE LAKES NEWSWEDNESDAY, FEB. 22, 2012
Forest lost opportunity to improve stands
Published weekly byEagle River Publications, Inc.Eagle River, WI 54521www.vilascountynewsreview.comConsolidation of the Vilas County News,the Eagle River Review andThe Three Lakes News
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Nothing says “thank you” quite like
Saturday, Feb. 25
While there have been nosnowmobile-related fatalitiesin Vilas County this winter, atotal of 52 snowmobilers soughttreatment at two area hospitalsfor injuries sustained on NorthWoods trails.That’s according to snowmo-bile accident reports from Min-istry Eagle River MemorialHospital in Eagle River andHoward Young Medical Centerin Woodruff that were sharedwith the Vilas County Snowmo-bile Safety Committee lastweek.Eight incidents resulted in aFlight for Life helicopter trans-porting injured snowmobilersto other facilities. The youngestwas age 8 and the oldest wasage 63, with the average agebeing 32.“The good news is VilasCounty has had no fatalities asof this date, but we’ve had 29accidents,” said Vilas Countysnowmobile trail coordinatorDale Mayo.Statewide, there have beenfive snowmobile-related fatali-ties this winter. It should benoted that many trail systemsacross the state have remainedclosed due to a lack of snow.There have been no snowmo-bile-related deaths in Vilas,Oneida, Forest or Iron counties.Last winter, 17 people werekilled in snowmobile-relatedaccidents. There were 21deaths reported to the DNR inthe winter of 2009-’10.The data from area hospi-tals, as well as follow-up inter- views, helps trail officials withsafety issues.“This data gives us an ideawhere accidents are happeningand we can examine the area tosee what might have causedthem,” he said.Mayo said he already haslooked at some of the areas tosee if the trail or signage need-ed extra attention. He gave oneexample of signage placement.“We had one area where Iwatched a sled go right througha stop sign onto a town roadand, when I asked the person,he indicated there wasn’t aStop Ahead sign, so we bothwalked back to where it wasand he swore he didn’t see it,”said Mayo.The solution Mayo had wasto place another Stop Aheadsign on the other side of thetrail for better visibility forsnowmobilers. It was suggesteda second stop sign also could beadded on the left side of thetrail.
Vilas sees 29 accidentson area snomo trails
U.S. Forest Service officials said the timber harvest program on theChequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is progressing. Hardwoodlogs were piled up last week at a hardwoods select cut east ofEagle River just north of Highway 70. —STAFF PHOTO
FROM PAGE 1A
scoping process, forest officialsencountered resource-drain-ing distractions related to tor-nado events and insect infes-tations.Strong said they reallocat-ed resources to the sprucedecline and the quad-countytornado area in order toaccomplish salvage harvestoperations.“Events not anticipated inthe forest plan take resourcesfrom our normal work, but wewere begged as land managersto do the right thing. We wentin there and dealt with thosesalvage operations before valuable timber was lost,” hesaid.Strong said they don’t getextra funding or personnelwhen such emergency opera-tions are necessary, and ittakes a toll on the day-to-daywork plan.The good news was that thesalvage timber helped boostthe annual harvest. The badnews was that logging sched-uled in other areas of the for-est had to be put on hold.Expecting his final budgetto be similar to last year,Strong said it is staff vacan-cies that are taking thebiggest toll on the volume of work that is left unfinished.“We’ve lost some wise andgreat personnel to retire-ments. They are leaving at afaster pace than we canreplace them,” said Strong.
Dave Bathel, a forester onthe Eagle River-Florence Dis-trict the past 27 years, saidpart of the frustration is thatforest managers finally con-quered the most pressing hur-dle for timber management,the National EnvironmentalPolicy Act (NEPA).“We have worked hard toclear about 82 million boardfeet of timber through NEPA,which could easily sustain atimber program of 10 millionboard feet a year in the nexteight years,” he said. “Thingscould change, but right now itlooks like we’ll only by able tomaintain that harvest for ayear or two.”Bathel said the district’slead forest technician recentlyretired. He said getting thetimber contracts prepared andthe units marked is impossi-ble without adequate budgetdollars and the proper person-nel.Even if they manage to har- vest 10 mbf of timber annual-ly, he said the consequences of not logging to the potential of the forest plan include lostopportunities to improvestand growth, to boost theeconomy with forest productsand to improve wildlife habi-tat.“It’s important that wemanage the timber we can onthe district because so much of the acreage can’t be touched,”he said. “We have a lot of forested land tied up inwilderness, old growth andwetlands.”He noted that 15 mbf of timber is a good, conservativenumber compared to the dayswhen the agency was overhar- vesting by cutting an averageof 42 mbf a year on the dis-trict.“We were cutting too muchback in the late 1980s andearly 1990s, so we carved thatback,” he said. “Now, we’vegone totally in the oppositedirection. We aren’t even har- vesting the more conservativeamount of timber called for inthe plan.”Both Bathel and Strongwant to maximize what theForest Service can do to carryout the goals and objectives of the forest plan. Neither isentirely satisfied that the tim-ber harvest on the district inthe last fiscal year totaled11.6 mbf.“We can do more,” saidStrong. “Timber cutting isimportant, but it’s not just thetimber. Our northern Wiscon-sin economy thrives on recre-ation and seasonal visitors,and that goes hand in handwith forest management.”
Timber sale levels that fellshort of the 2004 Forest Planare a problem throughout allfive management districts onthe Chequamegon-Nicolet,where timber sale volumeswent from 112 mbf in 2001 to just 66 mbf in 2010.Strong said across the for-est, the agency is only har- vesting about two-thirds of the volume it could be underthe forest plan.“Actually, there is a backlogof so many things that need tobe done. Besides the harvestof forest commodities, thereare recreational projects andheritage projects that aren’tgetting done with the currentfederal funding stream,” hesaid.Harv Skjerven, districtranger of the Eagle River-Flo-rence district, told Vilas Coun-ty officials in a recent meetingthat there is a backlog of about five years of wood toharvest totaling 320 mbf. At its peak in the late 1980sand early 1990s, the timbersale program on the forestoften topped 150 mbf annually— hitting a high point of 170mbf in 1991.
A new authority?
Strong, the supervisor whomust deal with funding andpersonnel challenges, has rea-son to be optimistic. He saidthere is no federal hiringfreeze at this time, but it takesmonths to complete the pro-cess of replacing a retiredemployee.“We don’t have to be victimsto our circumstances. We arecurrently working on local col-laboration to keep some of ourtimber sale revenues here inWisconsin, an authority pro- vided by Congress in 1999,”said Strong.Though it’s never been uti-lized here, he said some partsof the national forest systemhave collaborated with localcommunities, counties, tribesand regional planning groupsto identify how timber rev-enues could be tapped for localprojects.“We sell between $4 millionand $5 million worth of timberon the Chequamegon-Nicoleteach year, including about $1million in sales on the EagleRiver-Florence district,” hesaid. “We need to leverage the value of our timber againstthe work we’d like to get done.I’d like to fully implement theforest plan.”While the Forest Servicehere hasn’t utilized thatauthority the past 13 years,Strong believes it could helpoffset annual budget fluctua-tions.