Gang Rape in the Woods Goes Unnoticed
Two recent incidents made me so sick of foresters, I disavow any connection to the forestry profession.
Both started with retired DNR foresters who were working for forest owners as consulting foresters. It seems that after many years of working the government system, some want to cash in on some easy money in timber sales. They have an appearance of respect after working for the state, and everyone says they are 'real nice guys'. They play the game of “Sound Forestry” to justify heavy timber harvests and they take a percentage of the sale income.
Both incidents had excellent written “forest management plans” in place – the language was perfect – it would be good for the woods to perform this thinning. Both forest owners had worked with DNR for years. They had done 'everything right' in planning to sell their timber (according to the "experts!")
In both cases, the consulting foresters ignored their training & ethics and administered a destructive harvest. Quick profit for the forester and timber companies were their main concern. The values obtained for the forest owners were very low, even though excellent quality timber was taken. Heavy damage was done to the soils. Just the good timber was taken, leaving a highly degraded forest for the future. The management plans were not followed or respected.
Both landowners appealed to the DNR after the harvests, and were not at all satisfied with their response. Both contacted me for my help.
Case One – Marquette County. The landowner and I met with then State Forester Gene Francisco, Paul Delong (current State Forester), Paul Pingrey, the consultant, and the procurement forester from the sawmill that bought the timber. The regional DNR forester, and two county DNR foresters observed the harvest on other visits. Francisco’s verbal summary observing the harvest was that this was just a ‘typical timber harvest’. Nothing was done wrong. No action taken. The group concluded that the forest owner must have wanted to make as much money as possible and chose to have the heavy harvest. We asked other consulting foresters to assess the harvest and not one would help the forest owner, as they all knew they needed to keep on a good working relationship with the big sawmill. The individual forest owner is helpless in the timber industry.
The forest owner in what was the best oak forest in the county.
The good, high value trees were all taken.
When the ruts got too deep so the belly pan of the prehauler was dragging, the logger moved over and made a new set of ruts....
The forest was devastated. "Sound Forestry" according to the DNR!
This nice red oak has had its roots severed by the logging machines - fatal damage!
The forest owner got a fraction of the market value - the bid system was corrupt!
This red oak was growing 1/2" diameter each year - At Full Vigor!!
The owner was shocked by all the wasted wood.
The owner's son looks over his future forest.
The State Forester, Gene Francisco, told the forest owner and me that this looked like a typical timber harvest. What's the problem?
Case Two – Iowa County. Again, a “respected” retired DNR forester, working as a consulting forester for the landowner - administered a devastating harvest in total violation of the forest management plan. Only the good big trees were taken, the forest owner got a fraction of the real market value, and heavy damage was done to the soil, roads, and forest. The landowner contacted DNR foresters Tom Hill (in the local office who wrote the management plan), Carol Nielsen, and Paul Pingrey at the Madison Office. She wrote many letters, none of which received a professional response. No one bothered to look at the forest and the damage – they “blew her off as an old lady in the retirement home who didn’t know any better”. My letters were ignored also. As far as I know, no action was taken. Last time I talked with the forest owner, she was so upset with the situation that she put the land up for sale.
The management plan called for a removal of the low quality and slow growing timber. The good big trees were taken, and the low quality trees were left.
These high value oak trees were growing with Full Vigor! The consulting forester provided a timber sale contract that gave permission to the logger to actually take the best unmarked trees -
but you'll have to pay for them if you get caught!!
Heavy damage to the land occured by skidding these large trees during wet soil condition.
Huge ruts were made throughout the forest and down the roads by a pole skidder.
This was some of the best white pine plantation in the county, established by the forest owner's family.
The management plan was very specific - Leave the good big pines, and thin the stand by removing
just some of the smaller trees. Only the biggest and best pine were actually harvested.
The forest owner put the land up for sale.
In both cases, retired DNR foresters working as consulting foresters raped a forest and the forest owner – taking advantage of their innocent trust. The present DNR foresters piled on and/or watched. They worked to cover up the incidents and protect their friends. No one did a thing to stop it – or prevent it from happening again.
The DNR foresters blamed the forest owners for “wanting it”. “It is really their own fault.”
Both forest owners were devastated.
The legal system was of no help.
The forestry profession is just another big old institution that really doesn’t accomplish what it is supposed to - like the big traditional church. Some of the old guys fall to the temptations for instant gratification. Every forester knows these things are happening on a regular basis. Every forester knows their system is not working like it should.
Everyone is afraid to say anything, they don’t want to risk their cushy jobs.
So far, the forestry profession keeps covering it up and blaming the innocents.
It is way past time to shed light on this, stop covering it up – STOP IT!
Someone has to say something.
Forest owners will then come out of the woodworks to tell their stories, but today they are still afraid to speak up.
The forestry profession must clean up its own ranks -
you are not fooling the forest owners!
Jim Birkemeier - forest owner