By YUEHAN LIU
Capital News Service
LANSING– Michigan has signed an agreement with the U.S Forest Service to boost collaborative management of Michigan’s forest lands.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said the Good Neighbor Authority master agreement is “a broad pact allowing the state to supplement the work being done by the Forest Service staff on the national forests.”
The agreement would involve the three national forests in Michigan: Hiawatha, Ottawa and Huron-Manistee.
“This agreement would help both the Forest Service and the state,” said Jane Cliff, a public affairs specialist at the Forest Service.
Cliff said that the agreement would help the Forest Service because natural emergencies have used more of its budget lately, leaving less money for forest protection.
Cliff said there are a lot of emergency situations, especially as winter approaches. For example, “a windstorm can lead to fallen trees. We only have this much money and this many employees. In the last 10 years, more budget is used for other activities, like wildfires, which means there is less budget for keeping the forest healthy.”
The Forest Service won’t pay the state for doing work, but the state can get revenue from timber sales.
In a statement announcing the agreement, the DNR said, “This partnership will maintain and create healthy forest conditions as called for in the national forests’ forest plans, while providing additional wood fiber to Michigan’s vital forest product industry.”
The DNR said in the coming weeks there will be supplemental agreements to detail work the state should do for each forest.
State Forester Bill O’Neill, chief of the DNR Forest Resources Division, agrees that the Good Neighbor Authority agreement benefits Michigan.
“The majority of what we will do is to help the Forest Service with timber sales,” said O’Neill. “It won’t affect the employees who have their own work now. We probably would hire some new employees. ”
O’Neill said Michigan tackling the projects will be an important tool for the Forest Service in its efforts to protect the forests.
By YUEHAN LIU