April 2008


Dear Friends of Vital Forests/ Vital Communities:

A number of you have contacted us to inquire about the possibility of attending the Forest Biomass Harvesting Stakeholder Forum Blandin Foundation is convening on April 29th (see my March 19 post, Do No Harm: Renewable energy mandates and forest biomass harvesting). Thanks to everyone who has expressed interest in this project.

The goal of the meeting is to explore how to help guide, shape and inform the development of a sustainable forest bioenergy industry in Minnesota by expanding the number, improving the quality and sharing information about small scale and voluntary, on-the-ground biomass harvesting demonstration projects in northeastern Minnesota. With this goal in mind, and hoping to facilitate a highly participatory and focused discussion, we have purposely kept relatively small the number of invited agencies and organizations.

We have worked hard to ensure that a broad range of perspectives and organizations will be represented at the table. We do intend to share the outcomes of our “what next” discussion through the VFVC blog. If you’re interested in following the progress of this work, check back the first week in May for a summary of the meeting.

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Happy Birthday MyMinnesotaWoods.org!This morning we’re sending a big “Congratulations” to Eli Sagor and the folks at the University of Minnesota Extension on the one year anniversary of MyMinnesotaWoods.org. Listening to Eli this morning on the KAXE morning show brought back memories of when we all first started talking about developing an innovative Internet resource to encourage sustainable management of Minnesota’s family forest lands.

From concept to reality, today MyMinnesotaWoods.org is resource-rich, and according to Eli, the site will soon be offering more opportunities Minnesota family forest owners to share what they’re learning in the Minnesota woods.

Dear VF/VC readers:

I’m happy to report some good progress at the State Capitol related to recommendations that emerged from last September’s Family Forest Conference in pursuit of our “Next Million Acre” goal. A unique coalition has formed to speak with one voice on a variety of policy proposals related to forest lands, including the MN Forestry Association, the MN Deer Hunters Association, MN Forest Industries and the MN Seasonal and Recreational Property Owners Coalition among others. Their good efforts are paying off!

Property TaxesA tax bill has been passed and signed that will give many forest owners with stewardship plans the chance to receive a marked reduction in their property taxes. To qualify, forest owners must have at least 10 acres and no more than 1920 acres. The law allows these forest owners to apply to their County Assessor to have their land assessed at 0.65% rather than 1%. They must not be enrolled in the Sustainable Forest Incentive Act, but have a forest management plan that meets SFIA standards. There is also good news for those who ARE enrolled in the SFIA, as the minimum annual payment has been raised to $7.00 per acre, an increase from the previous floor of $1.50 per acre. These are positive steps forward and evidence that the momentum built during last session was indeed a harbinger of change to come.

But wait, there’s more! Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to make additional improvements on the forest property tax laws. They seek to remove the requirement for landowners to apply annually, to lower the class rate a step further to 0.55 %, as well as a variety of other things. If you would like more information about legislative developments, please contact Bruce ZumBahlen of the MN Forestry Association at zoomerbruce@aol.com.

Congratulations to everyone concerned about these issues, and thanks to those of you who have advocated change. You can be sure that we’ll update you again as we receive word of further developments from the Capitol.

In the meantime, may you embrace the muddy spring in Minnesota’s woods.