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    VFVC Newsletter - March 2006

    March 1, 2006

    Dear Friend of Vital Forests/Vital Communities:

    This is the first issue of volume three in a series of periodic updates on developments in Blandin Foundation's Vital Forests/Vital Communities initiative. If you would like to be removed from this mailing list, please send a reply email with a subject line UNSUBSCRIBE to vfvc@blandinfoundation.org.

    Save the Date! – May 25, 2006. Conference on Family Forest Stewardship: Getting to the Next Million Acres, St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN

    The conference aims to achieve consensus among participants on a strategic vision and action plan to dramatically increase the number of acres of family forestland in Minnesota under sustainable management.

    Focus on Forestry at the Legislature: Third Party Certification of DNR and Private Forest Lands and the Forest Legacy Program were among the topics presented at the hearing held February 15

    On February 15, VFVC partners briefed a joint meeting of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee on key issues facing the forest industry and Minnesota forest resources. The goal of the briefing was to provide legislators with information and context to inform state investments in forest resources for 2006 and beyond. Specific issues addressed included:

    • Declining competitiveness of Minnesota’s forest-based industries relative to other states, regions and nations;
    • Rapid, increasing parcelization of private working forests, and the resulting loss of public access and degradation of ecological services provided by intact forests;
    • Global demand for certified forest products;
    • Opportunities for the legislature to implement recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Competitiveness of Minnesota’s Primary Forest Products Industry; and
    • Recommendations for improving the effectiveness of the Sustainable Forestry Investment Act.

    Presenters included representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Logger Education Program, The Nature Conservancy, Minnesota Timber Producers Association, University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Forestry Association. Legislators welcomed the constructive working relationships and collaborative approaches to tough challenges demonstrated by participating organizations. Many of the presenters acknowledged the leadership role played by the Vital Forests/Vital Communities initiative in supporting many of the efforts highlighted to legislators.

    Link to the Minnesota Forest Resources Council 2005 Annual Report to the Governor and Legislature on the Implementation of the Sustainable Forest Resources Act

    VFVC Project and Grant Updates Now Available on the Web

    Since its launch in 2003, Vital Forests/Vital Communities has initiated and/or supported over 15 individual projects designed to advance initiative goals and objectives. Keeping track of all these efforts is no small task so we've consolidated them on one web page and created a downloadable matrix that provides a brief update for each. For more in-depth information, scroll down the page to access fact sheets and reports. Check out this link for updates on the latest developments.

    Report Released: Conservation Easements to Protect Working Forests

    Development pressures and rising taxes and land values are among the growing challenges facing forestland owners. Increasingly, it is financially difficult to keep large parcels of land intact. The Vital Forests/Vital Communities Advisory Board, along with the Minnesota Forest Resources Council (MFRC), has identified forest fragmentation as the most significant challenge facing Minnesota’s forests.

    According to the National Resources Inventory, the rate of development between 1997 and 2001 averaged 2.2 million acres per year; 46% of the developed acres came from forestland. This trend is increasingly evident right here in Minnesota.

    Under such development pressures, forested properties are being divided into smaller parcels, with some sold for development. Parcelization can lead to major change in how the land is managed and can limit forestry activities as smaller properties become inefficient to manage economically. Additionally, this parcelization often leads to the fragmentation of forest cover and the resulting loss of wildlife habitats. In recent years, one tool – the conservation easement – has come to the forefront of the race to protect land from development. A conservation easement is a tool that restricts land use conversion yet allows landowners to retain ownership and continue activities that fit their ownership objectives. Read the report.

    Conservation Easements to Protect Working Forests is the first of five Dovetail Partners reports commissioned by Blandin Foundation and keyed to Vital Forests/Vital Communities objectives. Upcoming reports will explore ecological classification systems, innovation in family forest certification, opportunities for design and construction innovation in the wood industry and bio-energy - merging forestry and farming for fuel.

    Sustainable Forest Incentive Act (SFIA) Work Group releases their Findings and Recommendations Report

    The Sustainable Forest Incentive Act (SFIA) was passed in 2001 to “encourage the state’s private forest landowners to make a long term commitment to sustainable forest management.” However, participation in the SFIA by family forest landowners remains disappointing; to date only 1% of Minnesota’s family forest landowners who might qualify have enrolled.

    To address this issue, from October 2005 through January 2006, the Minnesota Forestry Association (MFA), with partial support from Vital Forests/Vital Communities, convened a Work Group representing a broad cross section of public and private entities concerned with sustainable forestry in Minnesota to discuss opportunities to improve the SFIA’s effectiveness.

    The Work Group determined that the SFIA must be changed and improved in order to ensure that the Act’s policy objectives are met. The report’s findings and recommendations are currently being presented to the legislature, the Department of Natural Resources and other agencies. Due to the short legislative session, only a couple of the report’s recommendations will be pursued with legislation during the 2006 session; major policy changes will be considered during the 2007 session.

    Read the SFIA Work Group's Findings and Recommendations

    Thank you for your interest in the Vital Forests/Vital Communities initiative. For more information, or to share any comments, please feel free to call 218.327.8728 or email: brjoselyn@blandinfoundation.org.



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