Aitkin County land commissioner Mark Jacobs addressed foresters, researchers and others at the Cloquet Forestry Center in February during the 2009 Forest Values and Carbon Markets conference. Photo by Philip Potyondy

Aitkin County land commissioner Mark Jacobs addressed foresters, researchers and others at the Cloquet Forestry Center in February during the 2009 Forest Values and Carbon Markets conference. Photo by Philip Potyondy

In its August issue, BusinessNorth gives top front-page billing to a lengthy article,  Feeding the air: Northern woods poised to benefit from carbon credit market, exploring the role that forests can play in mitigating global climate change, including through participation in voluntary carbon off-set markets. 

The impetus and frame for the article was the February  conference, Forest Values and Carbon Markets  Based on research commissioned by the Foundation on behalf of Minnesota land managers and shared at the conference, Aitkin County is now poised to add carbon sequestration to the list of public benefits for which the county will manage its land, a move which could add a significant and sustainable new source of revenue for the county, along with the environmental benefits to Minnesota and beyond. 

Other counties and private land owner associations are contacting Aitkin County Land Department to learn more as they consider the opportunity.


Thanks to Dennis Becker for sharing news of this report, which includes a case study from Northeast Minnesota. 

Woody BiomassA collaboration of researchers from the University of Minnesota, Michigan Technological University, University of Oregon, and the Northern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service have released a new report entitled “Conventional Wisdoms of Woody Biomass Utilization.” Using 10 case studies from across the nation, this report considers whether commonly-held beliefs about the barriers and opportunities for woody biomass utilization appear to hold sway. It evaluates conventional wisdoms regarding consistency of supply, stewardship contracting, scale of operations, the role of collaboration, agency constraints, and several others.

 This paper sheds new light on the myriad issues surrounding woody biomass utilization and serves as both a primer for those unfamiliar with the topic, as well as a source of new research for those well versed in the issues.

 The report is available at:

 For more information, contact Dennis Becker at the University of Minnesota, 612-624-7286 or

 Additionally, the Ecosystem Workforce Program at the University of Oregon has released its own latest working paper about the social
issues surrounding biomass utilization. Although the technical and economic issues of woody biomass utilization have been frequent topics of research, social concerns have received far less treatment. This new working paper delves into the current social science research in the area and suggests lessons for policy makers and managers, and identifies topics that merit further study. The working paper is available at

For more information, contact Cassandra Moseley at the University of Oregon, (541) 346-4545 or

One of the key learnings from last year’s forest productivity tour series is that “intermediate treatments can be an effective tool for increasing forest productivity…as long as we don’t go overboard.”  Last week, the Aitkin County Land Department hosted a tour that focused on their experiences of applying intermediate treatments in a variety of forest types.  Katie Fernholz of Dovetail Partners, Inc. produced a 10-minute video summary of the tour that you can watch by clicking here.  A written summary and photos can be found below.

Many thanks to Aitkin County Land Department and the Forest Guild for co-sponsoring this event with the Blandin Foundation!

Written Summary of the Tour

The Wild Garden - A Journey of Loss and RenewalI’ve heard many people speak of gardening as an apt metaphor for forestry.   Now Forest Consultant Peter Bundy is out with a new book, The Wild Garden: A Journey of Loss and Renewal (North Star Press), that explores this connection in a deeply personal way.  Owner of Masconomo Forestry in Crosby, Minnesota, Peter specializes in restoration forestry.  He was the first private consulting forester in Minnesota to hold a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) group certificate for his private woodland owners clientele. 

I vividly remember meeting Peter for the first time several years ago over supper at Maplelog during an annual meeting of the Minnesota chapter of the Society of American Foresters.  Soft spoken and thoughtful, Peter  struck me as uncommonly dedicated to following his heart in life and work.   He has been a constructive critic of the Foundation’s Vital Forests/Vital Communities Initiative, challenging us to be ever mindful of the benefits of natural systems as the best model for good forestry.  One reviewer likened this collection of personal essays to the writing of Wendell Berry, noting that he “writes so beautifully that some paragraphs read like prose poetry.” 

You can join Peter and others at a book party to celebrate his second volume (after Finding the Forest), on at 5:30 July 31 at the Aitkin Beanery   The book party will be the culmination of a field tour being organized that day by the Aitkin County Land Department to feature intermediate treatments. 

Readers of this blog know that increasing the use of intermediate treatments is one of the action items identified by participants in the Foundation’s 2008 Forest Productivity Study Tour Series:  “Seeing the Forest AND the Trees: How to Make the Most of Minnesota’s Woods.”   Under the leadership of Land Commissioner Mark Jacobs, the Aitkin County Land Department has developed a broad and deep portfolio of intermediate treatment practices designed to improve the quality and quantity of county managed forests.  Beginning at 10:00, tour participants will visit Red Pine thinning (both logger select harvest and cumulative volume removal for tree quality) Aspen thinning, mixed conifer partial harvest, Oak shelterwood treatments, and other techniques.  All are welcome.  For more information, contact Mark Jacobs

GFTW_BannerGoods from the Woods (GFTW) began seven years ago as one of the first projects of the Vital Forests/Vital Communities Initiative.  I well recall the bright February day when a group of us first gathered to brainstorm the principles and goals that became GFTW.
This year this unique community festival of sustaining stewardship and livelihoods is being managed by Minnesota Wood Education Project/True North Woods under a refreshed format and with new partnerships. 
Check out this news release to learn more, and mark your calendars for September 19. 

VFVC logoI write today to share the news that Blandin Foundation will formally conclude our Vital Forests/Vital Communities Initiative by the end of this year.  Intended to have a 3-5 year life, VF/VC was launched in 2003 to strengthen and diversity Minnesota’s forest-based economy and promote the long-term ecological health of the forest resource that supports it.  In deciding to conclude the initiative, Blandin Foundation Trustees reaffirmed the role our forests play in our healthy community strategies.

Vital Forests/Vital Communities has been a vehicle for directing Foundation investments of over $15 million, coordinating investments and projects by others, including the Minnesota State Legislature, and marshalling a network of organizations and leaders to undertake a wide variety of forestry- and forest products industry-related activities.  In all, this work has leveraged over $40 million dollars from other organizations towards the Initiative’s goals.  (LINK TO GOALS PAGE OF VFVC)

Over the months remaining in 2009, project staff will work towards the smooth and successful conclusion and/or sustainable hand-off of VF/VC-initiated projects.  Our goals include laying the groundwork for future actions by others on critical forest policy issues, honoring the leadership of key partners, and helping position others to continue the work through Vital Forests/Vital Communities.  With the help of a series of assessment reports, the Foundation also intends to evaluate the initiative, identify lessons learned, and share them with partners in the forestry and philanthropy fields.

While there is still lots of learning ahead as we move into an assessment phase of the project, VF/VC staff and Advisory Board members have identified some preliminary key messages from the work over the past several years:

  • Forests are important to Minnesota’s economy, environment and communities.
  • Minnesota should make the necessary investments to improve the quantity, quality and value of our forests and the forest products and benefits they provide.
  • The organizations that care about Minnesota’s forests have the leadership, vision and shared commitment necessary to meet this challenge.  They deserve public support.

We intend to work with partners, the VF/VC Advisory Board, and you, dear blog readers, to strategize on how best to deliver these core messages – and flag new and ongoing policy priorities – to audiences that matter.  Together we’ve accomplished a lot – there is always more good work to do.  As the late, former Governor Elmer Anderson often said, “You never lose when you pursue a worthy goal.”  Minnesota has nothing to lose, and much to gain from continuing to focus on VF/VC’s worthy goal of promoting the connection between a healthy forest-based economy, healthy forest ecosystems, and healthy communities.

Scandinavia2I wrote yesterday about Dovetail Partner Inc.’s new report, The Power of Silviculture, promoting intermediate treatments as silvilculture that provides win-win outcomes for the forests, forest economy, and forest-reliant communities. Monday’s DuluthNews Tribune featured a front page article making the same case through the practices of logger Mike Zauhar, an independent logger practicing in St. Louis County and elsewhere in the region. Zauhar has reengineered his John Deere logging tractor to be lighter on the land, and is using it to experiment with intermediate treatments that increase the forests’ productivity and timber values. As Zauhar told DNT, “We don’t need to go to Europe to learn forestry ideas… We want it so Europeans are coming here to learn.” Way to go, Mike!