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While Wisconsin's state forests are managed for sustainability, they are not certified. But Gene Francisco, Chief State Forester, contends there's value in the state starting that step.
"Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and other states have elected to certify some or all of their public forestlands under one of the several certification systems," Francisco notes. "There's opportunity to certify Wisconsin's state forests in a similar fashion. We manage our forests consistent with the principles that are the basis of the certification programs. Pursuing certification would allow us to clearly demonstrate to the public that we are doing so."
Wisconsin state forests encompass over 490,000 acres of publicly owned forests. These forests are governed by statute: "The Department shall assure the practice of sustainable forestry and use it to assume that state forests can provide a full range of benefits for present and future generations."
In concert with this goal, state forests also are managed for recreational opportunities, timber management and harvest, aesthetics, watershed protection, biological diversity and wildlife habitat.
Preparing to revise the state forest master plans, the DNR forestry program assessed the northern state forests from 1996 to 2000, considering biological diversity, ecological community restoration and old growth, recreational supply and demand, socio-economics, regional ecology and more. Data from these studies is being integrated into discussions and decisions on state forest management.
Francisco says the state forest program will be further monitoring a variety of indicators associated with sustainable forestry criteria.
"Certification of our state forests would communicate our sustainable forestry practices," Francisco says. "We want to be credible and we strive to be a model for how we ask others to behave."