Aitkin County

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.


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

Thanks to Aitkin County Land Commissioner Mark Jacobs for posting such a thoughtful comment in response to my blog post summarizing some of the conversation I overheard at the end of the Forest Values/Carbon Markets conference.

Mark explains that his interest in participating in the Manomet Center’s Northwoods Carbon Study was to “test” the carbon credit system in a real world situation and thereby help forest managers in Minnesota make better informed decisions on the potential costs and benefits of participating in a carbon credit payment system.

Mark writes, “as a public forest land manager involved in this project my question throughout this study has been. can Aitkin County forests provide benefits from the carbon credit market without adversely impacting the other benefits that our forests provide?”

Mark’s answer (so far)? Yes (probably).

While emphasizing that the study remains underway with much work still to be done, Mark reports that his initial impression is that there are things that can be done to increase carbon storage without adversely impacting Minnesota’s local forest industry. In a message detailing the Business.

As Usual (BAU) and alternative harvest scenarios developed for the study, Mark explains: “Based on the (study results) so far I see that our forest management system and forests store a great deal of carbon but that does not mean that it is eligible for compensation. With some minor adjustments and without reducing timber harvest volumes we could market a considerable amount of carbon credits, if the yet to be determined trade-offs are palatable. If nothing else this study has shown that forest management can play an important role in carbon storage, but the system is not set up to recognize that fact. As forest managers we should get more involved in this issue now when the systems are in their infancy.

This week’s news release, from Dovetail Partners, Inc. summarizing the learnings to date from a the Manomet Center’s study of carbon credit options for Aitkin and Cass County Land Departments, reports that the carbon storage on these lands represents the annual carbon emissions of more than 5 million cars. Check out the news release here .

The report was presented at VF/VC’s recent conference: Forest Values/Carbon Markets: Opportunities for Minnesota. A full copy of the report is available on the Foundation’s web site.

Thanks to Dovetail Partners Executive Director Katie Fernholz for news that the Aitkin SWCD’s Forestry Services have recently completed the first annual audit of its forest certification program.

Membership in the program has doubled since it began in 2006. This success significantly advances a key objective of Blandin Foundation’s Vital Forests/Vital Communities Initiative — to increase the number of acres of private woodland and number of forest product companies under third party certification. Please join all of us on the Blandin team in congratulating Aitkin SWCD Director Dennis Thompson, his staff and members, on crossing this important milestone. And consider joining them on Saturday, August 16th for a hands-on demonstration of responsible and low-impact logging techniques.

11 AUGUST 2008
CONTACT: Dennis Thompson, 218-927-6565

Aitkin SWCD Forestry Services Grow
Logging Demo August 16th

(Aitkin, MN ) – The Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) recently completed the first annual audit of its forest certification program. The program has continued to grow since it was started in 2006.

“We’ve doubled the membership in the program since the initial group signed-up, and members are now able to market everything from certified pulpwood and sawlogs to balsam boughs and burls,” says Dennis Thompson, Aitkin SWCD Forester.

The opportunity to certify non-timber forest products such as burls for wood turning, balsam boughs, natural Christmas trees, and spruce tops was recently added to the program.

“Some landowners may not have a timber harvest planned for their land, but are interested in other products they can market. Now our program can help them responsibly manage non-timber forest products to the same high standards,” says Thompson.

The program was started with support from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) and a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“The opportunities offered by the Aitkin SWCD are unique in the state, and I hope landowners in Aitkin County continue to sign up for the program,” says Katie Fernholz, Executive Director of Dovetail Partners and project partner.

The Aitkin SWCD, Minnesota Forestry Association (MFA), and the Northwoods Forestry Cooperative are hosting a logging demonstration on Saturday, August 16th. Landowners are welcome to come learn about responsible and low-impact logging techniques.

For more information about the certification program or logging workshop, contact Dennis Thompson at the Aitkin SWCD, 218-927-6565.

Since its premiere at the Great Lakes Forest Alliance Conference in June, Forest floor to Showroom Floor: Marketing Green Forestry in Minnesota has generated quite a buzz. So much so that we decided to post the video on our web site. We still have a few copies of the DVD here at the office so email if you’d like a copy. Please include your name and mailing address.

The video tells an important story about forests, people, communities and change. It was produced by FretlessFilms Writer and Director John Whitehead for the Blandin Foundation’s Vital Forests/Vital Communities initiative.