Forests, including their many benefits and resources, are a defining feature of Minnesota that are highly valued by citizens and visitors. In the 1980s, citizens and interest groups became increasingly concerned about the sustainability of timber harvest and forest management and their potentially adverse environmental impacts. In July of 1989, in response to a large increase and even greater projected increase in timber harvesting activity, Minnesota citizens petitioned the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to prepare a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) to evaluate the cumulative impacts of timber harvesting and forest management in Minnesota.
Shortly thereafter, the EQB unanimously passed a resolution authorizing preparation of the GEIS to examine how forest resource values—related to economic, ecological, and social health—would be affected at three different levels of increased timber harvesting intensity. The GEIS assessed the impacts associated with current, and two potentially higher, levels of timber harvesting and forest management activities, and developed a variety of strategies to mitigate the adverse impacts identified. Completed in April 1994, the GEIS represents one of the most extensive state-level studies of timber harvesting and forest management ever conducted in the United States.
Upon completion, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the EQB convened a GEIS Implementation Strategy Roundtable representing a wide array of forest resource interests. This 25-person roundtable was charged with providing the DNR commissioner with a comprehensive strategy on how to implement the strategic program recommendations contained in the GEIS. After meeting on 19 days over a seven-month period, the roundtable participants reached consensus on a strategy that centered around incorporating stakeholder input at all levels of the planning process, and establishing and supporting the successful implementation of key site- and landscape-level programs. As a critical administrative element, the roundtable recommended the formation of a council, eventually named the Minnesota Forest Resources Council, to oversee key programs.
The 1995 Sustainable Forest Resources Act (SFRA) (Minnesota Statutes 89A) was the result of over five years of analysis and consensus building on forest resource management and policy in Minnesota. The SFRA established a number of innovative programs to promote the sustained use and enjoyment of the state’s forest resources. The SFRA recognizes a broad range of forest resource values ranging from outdoor recreation to wildlife and from timber to aesthetics. Similarly, SFRA program initiatives reflect diverse interests in the use, management and protection of the state’s extensive and very diverse forest landscape.
The SFRA established the Minnesota Forest Resources Council, which now consists of 17 people representing a range of forest resource interests. The council, formed November 1, 1995, facilitates the development and implementation of site-level and landscape-level forest management programs, and advises the governor and federal, state, county, and local governments on sustainable forest resource policies and practices.