North Woods for Sale?
Timber industry gives big campaign donations, gets more state forestland to cut.
About 39,000 additional acres in six northern Wisconsin forests have been targeted by state officials for extensive logging operations. The action follows a plan inserted last year into the current 2015-17 state budget by GOP lawmakers at the request of papermaking, forest products and logging interests.
The budget proposal was pushed by GOP Sen. Tom Tiffany, of Hazelhurst, and Rep. Mary Czaja, of Irma, and given final approval by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The plan brings to about 335,000 acres the total amount of land designated for logging in the Brule River, Black River, Coulee, Peshtigo River, Northern Highland American Legion, and Flambeau River state forests.
Environmental groups are concerned about the potential environmental problems that increased logging may create. In addition, the groups and other critics say the way the increase in timber-cutting on state lands was fashioned reduced public input and bypassed approval by the state Natural Resources Board.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released public documents and maps last month outlining properties targeted for additional timber-cutting. The DNR said it would take public comment until Nov. 21, and make changes afterward.
The logging and papermaking industries contributed about $419,500 between January 2011 and August 2016 to candidates for statewide office and the legislature. Topping the list of recipients of contributions during that period from the industries was Walker, who accepted almost $161,200; Tiffany, about $23,600; and 2014 Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke, about $19,300.
Top contributors from the papermaking and logging industries to all candidates between January 2011 and August 2016 were retired paper industry executive San Orr, of Wausau, and his wife, Joanne, $59,750; Bernard Dahlin, of Green Bay, president of Nichols Paper, and his wife, Alyce, $30,900; and Bill Johnson Jr., of Hayward, president of Johnson Timber, and his wife, Tali, $29,750.