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A REPORT PREPARED TO SUPPORT THE PROJECT: SEEING THE FOREST AND THE TREES: HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF MINNESOTA’S WOODS

A PROJECT OF THE BLANDIN FOUNDATION AND THE VITAL FORESTS/VITAL COMMUNITIES INITIATIVE

In 2007, the Blandin Foundation initiated a new project as part of the Vital Forests/Vital Communities Initiative. This project, Seeing the Forest AND the Trees: How to Make the Most of Minnesota’s Woods, was launched with a goal of engaging participants in a learning process that would help improve forest productivity. The project has included study tours in the Great Lakes region, and in September 2008, project participants traveled to Finland and Sweden to examine forestry and wood utilization practices.

More than 45 forest sector stakeholders have been involved in the project, including representatives from the Forest Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, University of Minnesota, and Minnesota Forest Resources Council. Policy makers, industry representatives, and non-governmental and environmental organizations are represented. The project identified several key learning objectives:

-Increase the quality and value of forests and the products that come from them in Minnesota and other Lake States.

-Optimize the balance of forest benefits, including timber, bioenergy and non-traditional forest products, ecosystem services and biodiversity, and public access and recreation.

-Develop a shared vision and public policy recommendations for forest management in Minnesota, including increased productivity and environmental and landscape sustainability.

To address these objectives, project participants engaged in various learning tracks to examine opportunities for and potential barriers to increasing forest productivity. The learning tracks include public policy, public engagement, systems change, private forest landowners, environmental review and permitting, and bioenergy and biochemicals. A key project learning strategy has been to examine alternative approaches used by forestry decision makers in other regions, and to identify best practices that can be replicated or adapted to provide local benefit. Specifically, the project has focused on Minnesota, Ontario, Finland and Sweden for comparison. This report provides background regarding the forestry situations in each of these regions, identifying the contrasts and similarities of each. Additional data about each region is included in the Appendix. This report has been created by and for the participants of the Seeing the Forest AND the Trees study tour to inform their experience and share the learning with others.

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