Low production in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest has hurt the logging industry, according to Gannett Wisconsin Media, which reported that the U.S. Forest Service has cut only 755 million board feet of its allowable 1.3 billion foot cap in the past decade.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Madison Democrat, and Rep. Reid Ribble, a Green Bay-area Republican, pushed for a farm bill provision that would let forest managers and loggers use forest roads without getting permits for problematic runoff.
"I'm pleased that the farm bill makes important investments in our forest industry, creating new economic opportunities for forestry and providing the tools our land managers and the Forest Service need to manage our working forests," Baldwin said.
The farm bill also contains provisions allowing state workers to help manage forests and permitting private organizations to sign deals with the government to harvest timber for certain purposes, such as reducing the risk of wildfires.
Jim Schuessler, head of the Forest County Economic Development, said those provisions should boost logging and allow for long-term forest restoration projects.
Rep. Sean Duffy, a Wausau Republican whose district includes the national forest, said the farm bill should help loggers but greater reform in forest management is needed.
"We're cutting just over half of what the Forest Service says is allowable in a system that should be self-sustaining," said Duffy, a competitive lumberjack. "The answer that the Forest Service is underfunded doesn't hold water. This should be a money-making enterprise."
Duffy praised Baldwin's push for forest reform and said he would continue to press the Forest Service to allow more harvesting of timber.
"This issue cuts across party lines and this industry has a special place in my heart," Duffy said. "The fight is on. Once this industry is gone you can't just pop it back open. I'll fight as hard as I can to keep the industry alive."