Senator Baldwin Tours Area’s National Forest
Fulfilling a commitment she made in March, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin spent a half-day recently touring the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest learning about the current challenges to forest health as well as proposed solutions.
“The health of our national forests is not a political issue,” Baldwin said, suggesting that she is hopeful steps can be taken to improve the health of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest at a time when Washington D.C. seems gridlocked.
In March, Forest County Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Jim Schuessler met with Baldwin and invited her to Forest County for a visit. Schuessler was in Washington to testify before the House and his testimony called attention to the economic decline in rural communities and regions since National Forest management began to decline two decades ago.
Schuessler’s organization collaborated with the Forest County Potawatomi Community tribal forester Al Murray as well as Forest County Supervisor Mike Albrecht to help raise Senator Baldwin’s awareness of how far forest and economic health has declined in the northwoods of Wisconsin.
“We did not invite her here to whine and complain about how it used to be, we want to show her concrete examples of what has gone wrong, what is at stake, but most importantly what solutions we propose,” Schuessler said.
Albrecht and Murray prepared a tour of forestlands contrasting well managed lands to at-risk lands that have not been managed, sometimes for many decades. “If we work together toward solutions we can get this problem turned around,” Albrecht said.
The senator was also reminded of promises made in 1928 that compelled the citizens of Forest County to turn over half their land area to the national forest system.
“We need a forest that is managed proactively instead of reactively,” Albrecht said. “When you reactive instead of proactive you are trying to cut your losses and unfortunately, the taxpayer, the owner of these national forests, loses a lot.”
Wisconsin paper mills are dependent upon pulp logs to keep their machines humming and the price of pulp is hurting paper manufacturing in Wisconsin. Softwood pulp prices have increased over 17 percent in just the past nine months.
“These increases put strains on Wisconsin mills and help push jobs to Asia,” Schuessler said. “Germany’s economy is cranking along with over 20 percent of GDP from manufacturing. We have to make these raw materials more affordable, especially when they are over maturing and tipping over in the national forest.”
Murray introduced Baldwin to silviculture basics and also provided information on timber sales, timber management and the variety of raw forest products and their uses.
Following the forest tour and presentation Baldwin toured two Crandon businesses, Infinity Wood Floors and Hometown Trolley. Infinity launched about six months ago and is already exporting flooring worldwide. Hometown Trolley is creating new ‘off the electrical grid’ trolley lines that are leading the industry.