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Menominee Sustainable Forestry Practices

To outsiders, the 220,000 acre forest of the Menominee Nation (WI) appears to be pristine and untouched. Yet the Menominee Forest is in fact intensively managed, with over two billion board feet of lumber having been harvested from the forest in the past 140 years. Despite this, the volume of saw timber on the Reservation is greater than when the Reservation was established. How have the Menominee kept their forest intact and flourishing while at the same time using its resources to support themselves? Through the use of sustainable forestry practices.

The Menominee Forest is collectively owned by the Menominee Nation, and those who are responsible for its management do two things: they maintain the forest as a resource for future generations and they manage the forest with an emphasis on promoting biodiversity. The Menominee do these things through use of a Forest Management Plan, which provides information for determining the annual allowable cut of timber.

The Forest Management Plan is based upon two sources of information: the Continuous Forest Inventory and the Operations Inventory. The Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI) monitors forest health. The Inventory consists of a systematic grid of plots on which a number of variables are measured over time, allowing observers to track changes in the forest. This study, which includes the area, volume, and condition of timber, allows managers to determine how much of the forest can be harvested annually or in the long term. The Operations Inventory monitors where the types of timber described in the CFI occur. Data are collected by stands (areas of like species growing together in uniform fashion), which are delineated in a database. This information provides the basis for deciding when and where the Menominee will harvest.

One of the most radical aspects of the Menominee’s sustainable forestry practices is their approach to marketing their timber. Because the Menominee are not willing to plant and clear cut the woods that are most in demand, there can be a gap between market demand and product availability. Menominee Tribal Enterprises (MTE), the business arm of the Tribe, employs salesmen who are shown a “menu” of timber to be harvested in the next year. From this menu, salesmen plan their marketing strategy. Through this process, MTE has built up a base of loyal clientele, who appreciate the quality of the product the Menominee produce as well as the timely fashion in which orders are filled.

The Menominee’s emphasis on biodiversity in the management of their forest seems to be beneficial for the forest’s health. The diversity of species in the forest has helped the ecosystem survive in the wake of natural threats such as insect infestations. In addition, two indicator species used to gauge ecological health in forests in northern Wisconsin (hemlock and Canada yew) are abundant in the Menominee forest. Overall, the Menominee seem to have struck a balance between sustaining themselves and sustaining the forest that helps them to do so.

Contact Group: Sustained Development Institute, College of Menominee Nation

Address: P.O. Box 1179
N. 172 Hwy 47/55
Keshena, WI 54135


Phone: 715-799-5600

Web site: www.menominee.edu/sdi/csstdy.htm