"Vital Forests/Vital Communities Redux: So What? Now What?" Held on October 23rd

Event Outcomes Identify Strategies and Priorities for Minnesota's Forests and Forest Benefits


(Mpls, MN) - The event, Vital Forests/Vital Communities Redux: So What? Now What? was held on October 23rd, 2013 at the Cloquet Forestry Center. With participation from diverse stakeholders, the outcomes identify future strategies for Minnesota's forests and the services and benefits they provide.


"Public and private sector stakeholders came together in this "open space" event to identify the highest priority needs and opportunities for Minnesota's forests," said Kathryn Fernholz, Executive Director of Dovetail Partners and host for the event. "The broad participation and exciting outcomes show how much forests matter to Minnesota."


Priorities include preventing unnecessary loss of forests to development or agricultural production, helping woodland owners improve forest health and vitality while realizing their stewardship goals, recruiting the next generation of natural resource management and harvesting professionals, enabling critical investments in management and research, and embracing emerging forest-sector businesses and green product opportunities. The report of outcomes from the event is available at the Dovetail Partner's website (http://www.dovetailinc.org/files/FinalVFVCReport103013.pdf).


Minnesota has more than 16 million acres of forestland and a proud and dynamic forest history. Individuals and organizations with an interest in the past, present and future of Minnesota's forests, forest economy and forest-dependent communities were invited to participate in the gathering hosted by Dovetail Partners and supported through a grant from the Blandin Foundation.


The event brought together past participants of the Blandin Foundation's Vital Forests/Vital Communities Initiative (which concluded in 2009) and interested stakeholders to review developments in Minnesota's forests and forestry over the past five years and to look toward the future.


"The Vital Forests/Vital Communities Initiative provided a framework for people who care about Minnesota's forests and forest-dependent communities to work together for shared goals," said Dr. Kathy Annette, Blandin Foundation CEO. "We commend Dovetail Partners for taking the initiative to rekindle the flame of these efforts and re-ask the question, 'What can we do together that we can't do alone?' This is an important question at a critical time for Minnesota's forest-based economies and communities."


The discussions at the event were supported by a white paper that describes conditions and recent changes in Minnesota's forests. The paper, available at the Dovetail website (http://www.dovetailinc.org/files/FinalVFVCReport103013.pdf), was developed with feedback from stakeholders and event participants.


From 2003 to 2013, there have been significant changes in Minnesota' forest sector.   While the state has seen OSB (oriented strand board) mills close, in recent years, new investments have occurred in specialized cellulose production facilities, additional kiln drying capacity, siding manufacturing, and bioenergy. There also continues to be development in diverse non-timber forest products such as balsam boughs and extracts from birch bark.


"The bottom line is that the forest sector in Minnesota is changing," said Jim Bowyer, Director of Dovetail Partner's Responsible Materials Program. "We have a choice to sit back and just let change happen, or we can choose to influence the outcomes of change to create a more desirable future - a future that includes productive and vibrant forests and thriving communities."


Another participant, Mark Jacobs, Land Commissioner for Aitkin County, said, "The energy is good. I've been to a lot of events like this and sometimes they don't move forward - I have a feeling things are going to move forward from this."