Legislator learns state forestry in St. Paul

by Chris Vetter

Although most U.S. Congressmen are vacationing after a long legislative session in Washington, D.C., one Minnesota lawmaker took time to visit the University and learn more about one of the state’s largest industries.
U.S. Rep. David Minge visited the St. Paul campus on Thursday to learn about forestry and the timber industry in Minnesota, which employ about 60,000 state residents.
Minge, who represents the southwest corner of the state, serves on the House Agricultural Committee, which has jurisdiction over most of the country’s national forests.
While on campus, Minge met with Al Sullivan, dean of the College of Natural Resources, and several University professors and forestry business leaders to talk about the importance of timber and forestry to the state.
“Today, we want to talk about where we are and where we are going,” Sullivan said.
The forestry industry strives to provide a strong economy, maintain a good environment and create healthy communities, Sullivan said. “Take any one of those three away, and the other two become meaningless,” he added.
Minnesota has approximately 17 million acres of forest land, with about 60 percent of that land owned by the government. Most Minnesotans who work in the timber industry work in the seven-county Twin Cities area.
Paul Ellefson, a professor of natural resources, said the key to the timber industry’s long-term success is making forests more sustainable. New trees must be added to replace the ones being cut down, Ellefson said. Another solution is to use as much of the tree as possible.
“We want to ensure (the timber industry’s) long-term future,” Ellefson said. “The commitment is there to do that.” That obligation, he added, comes from private businesses as well as local, state and federal governments.
Sullivan said the steps state officials have taken to foster cooperation among people involved in the timber industry will keep the product growing. “Minnesota is doing as well as anyone in the nation (in) leading the way in natural resources management,” Sullivan said.
Minge thanked Sullivan for his presentation, which he said helped him learn more about the importance of the timber industry to the state.
“I appreciate that you have brought this together,” Minge said.
The meeting began with a tour of a mural in Green Hall showing the history of Minnesota’s timber industry. The mural was originally done in 1944, but was retouched in 1990.
The College of Natural Resources will receive a boost in funding next year from the state. In the University’s $1.076 billion biennial budget, the Legislature allocated an $8.5 million increase for the college to help the school preserve Minnesota’s natural resources industry.
Sullivan said the money is a boost for the College of Natural Resources and will allow the school to add extra faculty members, he said.
“It will definitely help us serve this state better,” Sullivan said.