Designation supports state efforts to protect the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest from invasive species and disease.
Wisconsin's battle against the emerald ash borer, spruce budworm, and diseases affecting oaks and maples received an important boost this week, when a request by Governor Scott Walker for designation of 21 areas in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest gained approval under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act.
The federal act, part of the 2014 Farm Bill, expedites environmental and administrative rules for contracts to treat, remove, and replant trees in areas facing declining forest health and substantial tree mortality. In April, Governor Scott Walker requested designation of the land covering 21 key watersheds in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest following consultation with the Wisconsin Council on Forestry and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
"Healthy, productive, and sustainably-managed national forests in Wisconsin are critical to the success of our timber and tourism industries, as well as our sporting heritage and our quality of life," Governor Walker said. "This designation allows us to work quickly to protect the trees in theChequamegon-Nicolet National Forest that are at risk of disease and damage due to invasive species."
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Cathy Stepp said the agency will support the forestry council as it works with the U.S. Forest Service to engage stakeholders, including conservation groups, recreational associations, tourism groups, citizens, and industry. While the federal act does not provide additional funds, the ability to expedite projects in a collaborative manner will ensure that existing resources are invested for the greatest impact.
"Thanks to the cooperative efforts already underway, there is a shared understanding of the scope of work that will be needed," Stepp said. "We look forward to supporting the U.S. Forest Service in the weeks and months ahead to improve the health of this popular forest."
Working from a federal survey map identifying areas suffering or at risk from insects such as emerald ash borer and serious diseases, the Wisconsin Council on Forestry recommended locations for priority assistance. Council members are appointed by the governor and represent a diverse group of leaders in the forestry community who guide the state's efforts to protect and sustainably manage Wisconsin's forests.
Paul Strong, forest supervisor for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, credited the efforts of all involved for securing federal approval.
"The designations provide the Forest Service with a useful tool to more quickly plan projects for insect and disease treatments within the designated areas as we seek to increase the pace of restoration work on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest," Strong said.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest spans more than 1.5 million acres of Wisconsin's north woods with segments in Ashland, Bayfield, Florence, Forest, Langlade, Oconto, Oneida, Price, Sawyer, Taylor, and Vilas counties. For more information and a map of the areas covered by the designation, visit this link >>
Wisconsin is among 35 states that requested a designation under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act; in all, some 45 million acres are expected to be designated under this authority. The act allows governors to request designation for areas experiencing deteriorating forest health and at risk of devastating wildfires.