Mature hardwood forest stands proposed for logging. Photo credit: Andy Olsen, Environmental Law & Policy Center
Why this forest is special
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest covers more than 1.5 million acres of Wisconsin's Northwoods. It’s part of the Western Great Lakes forests, a transition area between the boreal forests to the north and the temperate deciduous forests and tallgrass prairie to the south and west. The forest is a mix of white and red pine, paper birch, hemlock, aspen and northern hardwoods, including sugar maple, red maple and American beech. The Western Great Lakes forests are home to moose, black bears, lynx, snowshoe hares, white-tailed deer and woodchucks, as well as bald eagles and endangered gray wolves. Forests, streams, inland lakes, and wilderness areas are all part of this rich, forested landscape.
The Fourmile Project
The project would log 12,000 acres east of Eagle River, Wisconsin, including clearcutting 1,000 acres. The Forest Service wants to reduce what they regard as an “overabundance of older age” trees, thereby “regenerating older stands into new young stands.” Based on Forest Service data, 53% of the stands to be logged are 80 years and older. The Fourmile logging project was devised to help meet the Trump administration’s goal of increasing logging in national forests by 72%.
Carbon and biodiversity
Northern Wisconsin forests have been carbon sinks for at least the last two decades. Public lands sequester more carbon, on average, than private lands because they tend to be older and less intensely logged. The Forest Service did not conduct the required analysis of carbon pollution that would result from this logging project and it failed to consider recent climate science. Sensitive species in the area include rusty patched bumblebees, Kirtland’s warblers, Canada lynx, Fassett’s locoweed, American martens, northern long-eared bats, monarch butterflies, red-shouldered hawks, northern goshawks and wood turtles.
Why these trees should remain standing
The Forest Service claims this logging project complies with an outdated 2004 forest plan. The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest was created to help reforest the landscape after the great “cut over” in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The forest is recovering and, while still relatively young, a portion has reached maturity. Of the 12,000 acres of planned logging, 54% are stands 80 years and older, 33% are 100 years and older. The largest trees to be cut are upland hardwoods, red pine, maple and aspen. Wisconsin scientists warn that logging and roads will disturb maturing forest habitats, harm recreation and disrupt imperiled species.
The future of mature and old-growth trees in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
Little old-growth forest remains in Wisconsin and there are few large tracts of mature trees. The Forest Service targeted mature trees in the Fourmile project because they said stands are “terribly skewed towards the older age classes.” The forest plan calls for protecting interior hardwood forests, but the project would log these trees, squandering a critical opportunity to protect large blocks of contiguous forests and their carbon stores.
The Forest Service approved this project in November 2020, with a finding of no significant environmental impact.
How you can help
Sign our targeted letter to Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Haaland to call for durable protections for mature and old-growth forests on federal lands.
Submit Letters to the Editor about this project to your local newspaper.
Send emails and make phone calls to the Eastern regional Forest Service office to oppose the Fourmile logging project.
Local Contact: Andy Olsen, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Aolsen@elpc.org