Becker County weighs timber against conservation

Basswood clump: Some marked, some not

Becker County is holding a public hearing tonight to help determine the direction of a new recreational plan that will inform land use decisions in northwestern Minnesota. The county, like many communities in northern Minnesota, is trying to figure out how to balance tourism and conservation with sustainable use of natural resources.

Adding to the weight of the county recreational plan is a recent biological survey by the Department of Natural Resources that identifies areas with high biological diversity that “contain very good quality occurrences of the rarest species, high-quality examples of rare native plant communities and/or important functional landscapes.” County leaders are hoping to chart a path forward that will allow the recreation needs to balance with a, at times competing, county timber plan that calls for the cutting of 1,200 acres per year.

Reporter Nathan Bowe from the Detroit Lakes Tribune puts a bead on where the priorities of the timber and recreational plans are at odds. “One timber sale in North Round Lake Township cuts across the new North Country Trail — a 4,000-mile-long hiking trail that goes through Becker County.”

Logging operations contend they wouldn’t clear cut the area and could do a selective cut of aspen, birch, red oak and basswood, but conservationist Ruth Berquist tells the Tribune she’s concerned that even with the selective approach logging equipment in the area has a significant impact on the fragile 100 year old eco system of the forest.

Bidding for that timber sale starts at $6,315. Berquist and her group, Resource Stewardship Association of Becker County, want tourism revenue factored into the decision making process of what timber can be sold where.

The Tribune notes that in 2010, timber sales contributed just over $167,000 to the county’s $38 million budget.

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