Pelican River Forest


In a spectacle more suited to a third world dictatorship than a vibrant democracy, the Oneida County board made a strong statement against conservation of working forest lands on May 16. Ignoring the comments made by over two dozen folks including grandmothers longing for a harmonious future, the board shot a blow to the Pelican River Forest Legacy proposal.

While the action was not entirely unexpected, more than one board member’s comments raised my ire. A board member rambled on about the people in Madison removing the severance (yield) tax on Managed Forest Law (MFL) lands such as the Pelican. The 5% tax on standing timber value harvested was removed on April 14, 2016 when then Gov. Walker signed Senate Bill 434, sponsored by two northern legislators- then Sen. Tiffany and Rep. Mursau. Sen. Tiffany hailed from Hazelhurst and Gov. Walker signed the bill into law at the Ponsee center in Rhinelander. Thus, that change which apparently harmed Oneida County, has an undeniable Oneida County footprint. Sen. Tiffany’s April 2016 statement boasted of the elimination of the tax to ‘deliver a tax cut to those harvesting trees by eliminating the severance and yield tax’.

 Another part of the Senator’s statement reads. We need to do all we can to ensure that Wisconsin mills continue to have a steady supply of Wisconsin timber. Maintaining the Pelican River as a working forest would do just that. Thus, I would ask now Congressman Tiffany why he has not made a public expression in support of the project.

At the May 16 meeting, the comments of over two dozen proconservation voices expressed unwavering support for the Pelican River project and against the resolution in front of the board. Yet another board member was not satisfied with simply ignoring the wishes of those attending but went on to offend those who attended by publicly saying those people do not work for a living. One could also say the same about the board members attending daytime meetings.

Additionally, in response to a comment about representing the wishes of constituents, the board member said he did not necessarily listen to constituents but listened to Jesus, as if implying the pro-conservation commentors cannot follow Jesus. In my opinion, the board member has a responsibility to both constituents and to Jesus: However, the Jesus I hear wants us to protect Creation. What a great way to accomplish just that, by conserving the biodiversity of our region’s natural resources through the Forest Legacy Program. Using this program to protect the Pelican River project recognizes the economic and social needs of communities (constituents) as well as the environmental and intrinsic values our faith would require.

Joe Hovel, Conover

Hovel is president of Partners in Forestry Cooperative