Lake States Forest Resources are Abundant

Forest2Market to Review Opportunities at FRA 2018 LSR Fall Meeting

The forestlands of FRA’s Lake States Region of MN, WI, and MI are vast. This region boasts more than 54 million acres of forestlands which provide wildlife habitat, clean air and water. These same forests provide the timber resources that drive a $25 billion industry and directly employs more than 110,000 individuals in the Lake States. 1

Hardwood forest types represent 72% of the forestland acres, while softwoods represent 18%. The aspen forest type, a species important to the forest products industry, is the largest single forest type, accounting for more than nine million acres of the total forestland in the region. Pine species represents the largest softwood acreage, with more than six million acres.

Forestland ownership is a mix of private and public interests. Private ownership accounts for 58% of the forestland acres.  Public lands ownership consists of state, county, and federal ownership that accounts for 42% of the forestland acreage (figure 1). Timber supply of the forest products industry is dependent on the active management of public timberlands. Public timber accounts for more than 50% of the total utilization of some mills in the region.

The general trend in the Lake States is that forests are getting older. 2 In 2003, 20% more young forest habitat was created annually than compared with today. The decline of young forestland is partially due to the loss of the forest products industry in the region. With less demand for fiber, fewer acres are being managed and less young forest habitat is being created. Figure 2 provides an age-class by acres comparison of 2003 to 2016.

Although older forests are important, too much over-mature acreage brings along increased forest mortality from insects and disease. Currently, forest mortality exceeds timber harvest in the Lake States by 10% annually. Similar to what we are seeing in the western parts of the U.S., high mortality rates have led to the increased occurrence of catastrophic wildfire, impairing water quality and destroying wildlife habitat. This is something we want to avoid in the Lake States Region.

Based on the underutilized forest resources present, there are opportunities in the Lake States to maintain and grow the forest products sector. In order to maintain existing facilities, an environment must be created that allows existing facilities to compete in a global marketplace. Part of competing is maintaining a reliable, predictable and adequate timber supply from the region.

Public land managers must develop plans that account for increased timber management opportunities. Elected officials and leadership must hold land managers accountable for this task. The forest products industry needs to be active in the public planning process to assist in the development of forest management plans. It does the industry no good to complain after the planning process is completed.

In terms of growing the forest products sector, the path forward is less clear. Are there growth opportunities in fuels, chemicals, laminated timbers or other innovative products that utilize wood? Pete Coutu with Forest2Market will discuss some of the opportunities that may be available to grow the forest products sector at the FRA 2018 Lake States Region Fall Meeting, which will take place September 17-19 in Wausau, Wisconsin.

To register for the meeting CLICK HERE.

Figure 1. Percent of acres by ownership (source: USFS, FIA).

Figure 2. Lake States Region (MN, MI, and WI) forestland age-class comparison of 1993 with 2016. Compared with 1993, the Lake States Region has less young forest and an increase of old forest acres. Opportunities exist to grow the forest products sector through active management and improve the habitat for species that rely on young forest (source: USFS, FIA).