Minnesota Should Axe Its Timber Cord Quotas
Millions in Federal Conservation Aid Withheld Due to DNR Clearcutting
Washington, DC — The State of Minnesota may forfeit millions of dollars of federal grants if it does not stop clearcutting sensitive wildlife habitats, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has temporarily withheld significant conservation funding for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) over the latter’s imposition of “timber cord quotas” that impose logging targets regardless of the impacts on wildlife and habitats.
In 2021, FWS held up a two-year $26.4 million grant for Minnesota’s Wildlife Management Areas because DNR had ignored adverse impacts on wildlife in executing its logging quotas. In addition, DNR had placed decision-making on many conservation matters in the hands of foresters and not wildlife biologists. A final decision on whether FWS continues sequestration of this funding is imminent.
“U.S. taxpayers should not be subsidizing Minnesota’s backward and destructive logging practices,” declared Tim Whitehouse, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforcement attorney. “We are urging the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to hold its ground and rescind any grant approvals that violate federal regulations.”
Earlier this month, MN DNR announced that it had agreed to “action items” in a meeting with FWS Regional Director Charlie Wooley and suggested that this agreement resolved the matter of the withheld grant. Yet, these action items do not meet the conditions laid out by FWS and, for the most part, contain no identifiable actions but merely “reaffirm” DNR’s good intentions.
“Based upon reports that we have received, actual conditions on the ground have not changed, and DNR-mandated ‘timber cord quotas’ still prevail,” added Whitehouse, whose letter today urged FWS to reject this sham agreement and to continue to withhold grant funds. “DNR does not seem to grasp that the federal funding is limited to timber operations designed to benefit wildlife, not to maximize timber production.”
In addition to the loss of federal funding, DNR may risk financial consequences from the loss of its sustainable forest management certification through the Forestry Stewardship Council, which is currently conducting its annual audit of DNR forestry. That certification makes DNR timber more marketable. PEER has asked the Council to incorporate the concerns raised by FWS into this latest audit and any subsequent certification decision.