Timber producers watching latest budget proposal

Published 10:13 am Thursday, April 4, 2013

BEMIDJI — Minnesota timber producers are hoping another $8 million proposed for forestry management will help sustain their industry.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s original budget proposal would have added $2 million, but industry representatives said that wouldn’t have been enough to offset decreases in other Department of Natural Resources forestry funds.

The DNR has typically produced about 800,000 cords of wood per year, a figure seen as a general mark of what’s needed to preserve the health of the industry. The DNR has maintained that output even as the number of foresters has dropped by about 100 in recent years.

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Wayne Brandt, executive vice president of the Minnesota Timber Producers Association, said Dayton’s first proposal would have forced the DNR to cut timber sale offerings by 200,000 to 250,000 cords per year. “We think that would have had a very, very significant negative impact,” Brandt said.

The governor’s revised proposal should allow the DNR to hire several new foresters, northwest regional forestry manager Dave Thomas said.

The forest management department was budgeted for $38.4 million in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, down almost half from four years earlier. An investment account funded from wood sales has also fallen as wood prices have dropped since the recession hit.

The DNR also had to sell timber from blowdown areas last year — damaged wood that sold for about a third of normal prices.