This week I spent two days visiting school trust-related timber industry sites in north central Minnesota. The group included DNR officials and members of the Legislative School Trust Commission of which I serve as vice chair.
The senior DNR officials included Assistant DNR Commissioner Shannon Lotthammer, DNR Forestry Division Director Forrest Boe, as well as regional and local DNR officials. School Trust Commission Chair Sen. Jerry Newton, Sen. John Hoffman, Sen. Carrie Ruud, and Rep. Tim O’Driscoll were joined by other state legislators including Reps. Steve Green, John Persell and Josh Heintzeman during various stops on the tour.
The tour began at Clearwater, Minn. with an update on threat the emerald ash borer presents to Minnesota’s expansive ash forests, as well as the many ash trees within our cities across our state. Mother Nature does not allow this insect to spread very fast, but a simple mistake by a camper with infected fire wood can move the insect hundreds of miles in just hours.
Next stop was the Badoura State Nursery near Akeley. The nursery supplies about 3-5 million seedlings annually to support regeneration of Minnesota’s forest harvest sites. The nursery is on school trust land and plays a huge role in ensuring that we continue a sustainable timber harvest on both school trust and other government and private forest lands.
The PotlatchDeltic Lumber Mill hosted a tour of their dimensional lumber plant near Bemidji. The plant specializes in production of 2x4 construction lumber. This plant supplies a major portion of the building industry across the Midwest. About 100 truckloads of saw logs enter the plant every day to provide the raw material for this plant’s operation.
We overnighted in Bemidji and then visited the Norbord Oriented Strand Board (OSB) Mill near Solway. This plant consumes about 80 truckloads of primarily aspen timber per day. A major portion of their timber comes off school trust lands. This plant is a supplier of OSB for most the Midwest.
That afternoon, we visited an active timber harvest sit near Walker. We were only on the site for about a half hour, during which we observed two semi-truck loads of aspen cut and loaded on trucks bound for the Norbord plant. Time is money in the logging business.
We also visited several communication tower sites that are on state lands under long-term state leases. This is another important part of revenue that comes off state school trust lands that supports our K-12 schools across Minnesota. It was a busy two days looking at school trust land operations that directly support our K-12 education system.