June 2009

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!

Late on June 3 the DNR issued this press release announcing that the agency and Blandin Paper Company (UPM) have signed a binding agreement from the purchase of a working forest conservation easement on the 188,000 acre Upper Mississippi Forest Project. Here’s a link to coverage of the deal in today’s Star Tribune.

Congratulations again to all who helped make this historic deal possible, and to all Minnesotans who will benefit forever from this work. As Mike Kilgore is quoted as saying in the Star Tribune article, “This easement is a great buy for the citizens of Minnesota.”

ScandinaviaThey are rare in the often rough and tumble world of forest policy and practice, but sometimes it’s possible to point to tools that are especially helpful in delivering multiple public benefits from our forest resources – tools that are true silver bullets.

As described in a Dovetail Partners, Inc. report just out, The Power of Silviculture: Employing Thinning, Partial Cutting Systems and Other Intermediate Treatments to Increase Productivity, Forest Health and Public Support for Forestry, intermediate treatments have the potential to be a silviculturalists’ silver bullet.

Authored by Jim Bowyer and other Dovetail Partners, Inc. staff, the report is one of the products of Vital Forests/Vital Communities 2009 study tour project, Seeing the Forest AND the Trees: How to Make the Most of Minnesota’s Woods. As the report’s title suggests, a key “take away” from the study tours was the ability of intermediate treatments to increase multiple benefits – social, economic, and environmental – forests offer, AND increase public support for forestry. Blandin Foundation commissioned the report to support the work of one of the tour’s follow-on action teams, this one focused on the goal of increasing the use of intermediate treatments in Minnesota across ownerships.

As noted in the report, “There is now a considerable body of knowledge that suggests that wider adoption of intermediate treatments could increase both forest productivity and forest health. The possibility that public interest in and support for forestry might also be enhanced provides a win-win combination that could improve the outlook for profitable production of diversified forest products, including biomass in renewable energy production.”

When I put a copy into the hands of DNR State Forester Dave Epperly, who came by the Foundation today for a meeting with USFS Region Nine Forester Kent Connaughton, he brightened. “We at the DNR have been trying to increase the use of these treatments for several years; this report will help us make the case for why.”