Given the voluntary nature of the guidelines, the SFRA requires the MFRC to establish implementation goals for various landowner categories. The MFRC initially established broad guideline implementation goals based on a set of defined criteria related to support, awareness, and commitment for guideline application (Implementation Goals for Timber Harvest and Forest Management Guidelines). In 2013, the MFRC initiated a multi-stakeholder assessment of historic guideline implementation to determine is levels were suitable to mitigate to impacts to forest resources. Following a year-long evaluation, the multi-stakeholder group concluded that impacts to forest resources were likely minimal and provided several recommendations related to policy, education, research, and monitoring. The full report can be viewed here.
Information regarding the type and extent of forest practices used in Minnesota provides valuable information which can be used to guide forest policy and identify research needs. Forest practices and management goals were assessed in 1996 with the use of a voluntary survey of loggers and land managers conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota. A second survey was conducted in 2008 with funds provided to the Interagency Information Cooperative to assess changes in forest practices over the past decade. Results from these surveys are available below.
The MFRC has supported and funded a number of research studies related to guideline effectiveness, effects of forest practices in general, and forest health. These studies and others like them have provided useful information on practices at the site level, but provide little information relevant at broader regional or landscape scales. Effort is underway to initiate studies with inference at larger scales, with focus on water quality, wildlife habitat, and soil.
Impacts to soil, notably compaction and rutting in skid trails and landing areas, has been a focus of numerous studies because it can cause direct reductions in stand productivity and other forest resources such as water. The council has supported a number of studies related to soil disturbance and its effects on vegetation growth which can be viewed here and on the MFRC reports page.
Riparian areas adjacent and near surface water such as streams and lakes are important components of forest ecosystems given their influence on water quality, aquatic and terrestrial habitat, recreation, and other resources. Because of this importance, Riparian Management Zones (RMZs) have long been a contentious issue with regards to the most appropriate width and residual basal area remaining after harvest. The council has funded and supported a variety of research studies related to all aspects of RMZ’s, and has also conducted several comprehensive reviews on the existing state of knowledge related to riparian function. These studies served as a basis for modification of RMZ recommendations in the most recent guideline revision. Many of the reports can be viewed here and on the MFRC reports page.
Greater utilization of woody biomass for energy production and other uses (i.e., biomass harvesting) has received increasing interest in recent years, but the ecological effects of increased use are uncertain. Following publication of the first biomass harvesting guidelines in the nation (MFRC 2007), the MFRC funded a large manipulative study at the University of Minnesota to examine the ecological effects of increased biomass utilization in Aspen forests. Ongoing work from this research will be used to guide revision of the biomass guidelines in the future.
The invasive Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has decimated ash forests in the Lake States region. In Minnesota, black ash wetland forests are seriously threatened by EAB with high potential to have profound effects on a variety of forest resources given its extent in the state. The council is working collaboratively with the University of Minnesota and the USDA Forest Service to evaluate options for management to mitigate the EAB threat with the use of large-scale manipulations that simulate EAB mortality and examine alternative harvest practices and planting strategies.
EAB is a serious threat to black ash wetlands in Minnesota. The MFRC is collaborating on a large scale project to evaluate mitigation practices to address the threat. The picture above shows girdled black ash trees which was conducted to simulate what will happen when EAB infests these forested wetland systems.