Timber sales on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest have increased for the sixth year in a row. The forest sold 128.7 million board feet of timber this past fiscal year.

Forest Supervisor Paul Strong said that’s the most timber sold on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest since the early 1990s. The forest has been able to sell more stands of timber for harvest through an agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources under the Good Neighbor Authority, which allows the state to conduct management of national forest land.

"They’ve been a steady partner delivering their share of this program for the last three years," Strong said.

The state sold 30.7 million board feet under the agreement, said Jeffrey Olsen, national forest specialist in the Good Neighbor Authority program with the DNR.

"It adds to the economy of the state of Wisconsin because it’s allowing more wood to come on the markets and help the wood product manufacturers in Wisconsin having more supply available to them," said Olsen.

The forest industry overall accounts for more than 64,000 jobs and $24.7 billion in economic output, according to the DNR's website. Olsen said the state has set up more than 10,000 acres of timber sales over the last several years, generating a little more than $7.25 million for the program. Any revenues that exceed the cost of administering sales go back into projects on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

In the past, the U.S. Forest Service has struggled with managing sales of timber that’s already available for harvest in northern Wisconsin due to shrinking federal budgets. The agency has also contended with rising costs of fire suppression with wildfires out west.

Henry Schienebeck, executive director of the Great Lakes Timber Professional Association, said he "hauled hardly a stick off the national forest" when he went back into logging full time in 1999.

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Everything was coming from state, private and county lands at that time," Schienebeck said. "There was a little bit on national forest, but not very much. For us right now, for the timber industry to see the amount coming off the national forest is really a good thing."

Schienebeck hopes that will provide more opportunities for logging operations.

"I’m hoping that we’re going to see some opportunities for loggers to expand a little bit to supply the timber that the saw mills are looking for," he said.

Last year, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest sold 120.5 million board feet of timber valued at $7.72 million. The forest is planning to sell 102 million board feet next year with another 25 million coming through state-administered sales.

"We’re at a place that we’re probably getting close with our existing staff and our existing authorities and efficiencies that doing a lot more than this is probably not what the future holds," Strong said. "Other factors start dictating what we’re going to get done here. Could we do more? We certainly could. We’re well within the confines of our forest plan. It really depends on what are agency is asking us to get done and our local capacity to deliver that."

Loggers harvested about 14,000 acres of the more than 860,000 acres available for timber harvests in the national forest in 2018.