Researcher in the Hemlock Ravine Scientific and Natural Area.

MN Impact: University of Minnesota researchers help develop recommendations to improve forest management

February 6, 2020

Issue

The forest management situation in Minnesota is intrinsically complex, involving approximately 17.1 million acres of forestland. Forests are part of a multi-faceted natural resources system, with long timber production periods and important environmental values. In managing Minnesota forests much is at stake, so it is critical to integrate and balance well the ecological, social and economic objectives.

What has been done

In 1994, the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board commissioned a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS), which assessed the environmental and related impacts of three levels of statewide timber harvesting intensity. The study, which University researchers led, developed recommendations to mitigate impacts identified in the assessment, many of which are still in use. 

Since the GEIS, Howard Hoganson and his research team have continued their breakthrough modeling work that was a cornerstone of the GEIS. They have since led detailed analyses to support the current forest plans for both the Chippewa and Superior National Forests in Minnesota, expanding modeling methods spatially to recognize important site-level conditions important for wildlife, while also still addressing the economics of timber production--including aspen.

Results

Using and expanding the current U of M forest management modeling system, the team looked in more detail at the aspen resource in Minnesota, focusing on tradeoff information involving aspen harvesting and sustaining some older aspen critical for ecosystem services. Ten scenarios were modeled, with applications using a downward-sloping demand curve to recognize that when less old aspen is present on the landscape, its marginal value is likely higher. These comparisons provided specific insight on the Minnesota situation related to ecological objectives and how detailed timber harvest scheduling can be improved to better recognize environmental values when making site-specific stand-level decisions.