Every Day is Earth Day: Tribal Loggers Put Forest First

April 22, 2023

Amazing article, it’s long, excerpts here.

New York Times:

MENOMINEE COUNTY, Wis. — Amid the sprawling farmlands of northeast Wisconsin, the Menominee forest feels like an elixir, and a marvel. Its trees press in, towering and close, softening the air, a dense emerald wilderness that’s home to wolves, bears, otters, warblers and hawks, and that shows little hint of human hands.

Yet over the last 160 years, much of this forest has been chopped down and regrown nearly three times. The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, its stewards, have pulled nearly two hundred million cubic feet of timber from this land since 1854 — white pine cut into museum displays and hard maple made into basketball courts for the Olympics.

Yet the forest has more trees on the same acreage than it did a century and a half ago — with some trees over 200 years old. 

The Menominee accomplished this by putting the well-being of the forest and their people ahead of profits and doing the exact opposite of commercial foresters. They chop down trees that are sick and dying or harvest those that have naturally fallen, leaving high-quality trees to grow and reproduce. It is regarded by some as the nation’s first sustainable forest.

“In a way, we’re fighting modernization, because nobody wants to pick up a manual handsaw,” said John Awonohopay, lumber operations manager for Menominee Tribal Enterprises, the company that oversees the forest. “Think of it as a garden. Right now we’ve spent 150 years plucking all the weeds, and have it pristine. But we can’t harvest the pristine fast enough.”

Left alone, the forest will grow dense, stunting the growth of some trees and inviting invasive diseases and pests, which are already an increasing menace because of climate change.

An hour’s drive northwest of Green Bay, the Menominee forest is so lush it pops in images from space. At 235,000 acres, it’s home to about 4,300 tribal members and roughly two dozen species of trees, hardwoods and softwoods like red oak, pine, maple, aspen and hemlock that fill 90 percent of the land.

In many ways, the reservation is an island. It borders farmland long ago shorn of trees. Its people overwhelmingly vote blue in a sea of red. During statewide wolf hunts, wolves on the reservation go untouched: The Menominee respect them as kin, and also hunt only for food.

According to Michael Skenadore, president of Menominee Tribal Enterprises, the tribe began logging shortly after the formation of its reservation, when it recognized the revenue potential of white pine. The government wanted the tribe to clear the trees and to farm, according to Michael Dockry, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s forest resources department.

But the Menominee people had no intention of destroying their forest.

Instead, they saw it as a collective resource that, if carefully harvested, could allow them to maintain their cultural connection to the land while providing for plants, animals and the tribe for generations to come. A quotation attributed to the tribe’s legendary Chief Oshkosh set their course. If the Menominee took only very old, sick and fallen trees, he said, “the trees will last forever.”

The result was a sustainable forest that is influential today. Foresters routinely come from around the world to study the Menominee land, which has been recognized by the United Nations and certified by the Forest Steward Council, the gold standard for responsible forestry, among other awards.

Tribal forests are generally healthier, better managed and more biodiverse, making them more resilient to climate change, Dr. Dockry said. And many consider the acreage under the control of the Menominee to be the healthiest managed forest in the United States — even though tribal forests get one-third of the funding per acre that federal forests receive, according to Cody Desautel, president of the Intertribal Timber Council.

“In many ways,”  Dr. Dockry said, “they are leading the feds in how to manage forests.”

Using centuries of knowledge and helped by computer imaging and drones, Menominee foresters determine their harvesting schedule by forest health and the age and readiness of trees, rather than by market demand.

“It’s a 180 flip on other industries, where profitability is their number one,” said Mr. Awonohopay. “To us the forest is number one. We want a profit by all means. But taking care of the forest and our people come first.”

Ms. Duquain examined a few soaring white ash trees that had been sprayed orange for cutting. The trees grew straight and tall, and would have otherwise been left in place, except that deadly emerald ash borer beetles had been found in the forest. “It’s going to be a pre-emptive removal,” she said.

Ms. Duquain and Mr. Waukau made their way to a small thicket of young pines gathered around a massive one that reached high into the sky. Decades earlier, the stand had been clear-cut. Though controversial within the tribe, Mr. Waukau said, the method benefits trees that need open spaces and sprout from roots, along with birds that thrive on forest edges. In this case, the parent tree was left in place and generated seeds that grew into trees that now were some 20 feet high. “A success,” Mr. Waukau said.

Left alone, the trees of their forest will grow old and eventually die, a natural cycle. But the Menominee believe that if they’re not actively managing their resource, and keeping it as healthy as it can be, they’re letting down generations to come, even failing a forest that has given them so much.

“Everything we’re doing is managing for the future,” Mr. Waukau said. “We’re just a blip.”

Much more at the link


One Response to “Every Day is Earth Day: Tribal Loggers Put Forest First”


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    #Not_CO2_GHG #CO2_PlantFood


    #Earth🌎🌄💦🔭🧪🦠 #IPCC #UNEP #IMF #UNFCCC





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