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Guest column: Forestry center is a key community asset

It has recently come to my attention that the University of Minnesota Board of Regents will meet to discuss transferring Cloquet Forestry Center land to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. I am writing to you as a university alumni and a past interim director of the center with 30 years of experience while working at the facility. I am the last surviving faculty member with intimate knowledge of the history of the CFC.

I am troubled with the meetings between the band and the university with no public input or informing those closely associated with the CFC. The community of Cloquet has been supportive of the CFC for more than 100 years but have been ignored regarding their input, as have been other interested parties. There is no transparency regarding this important issue.

The CFC has a deep historical background in the forestry community throughout the United States and abroad. It has been recognized for many years as an outstanding research, outreach and educational facility since its establishment in 1909.

Minnesota 1909 Chapter 131 law legally established the CFC as “a forest practice ground, demonstration forest and experimental station for the students of the forestry department of the University of Minnesota.” The law also clearly established the board of regents as the manager of the “university forest.”

The past and present research studies have resulted in nearly 1,000 publications which have provided helpful information essential in the decision-making process for numerous subjects. For example, ongoing National Science Foundation studies have been implemented to aid in providing information to address climate change issues.

The center has hosted numerous visitors and conferences from across the world. The educational facilities are among the finest in the country and have provided educational opportunities for thousands of Minnesota students and others. The 22 miles of forest roads and trails provide access for a number of visitors. Outreach programs have long provided educational opportunities for users from varied walks of life as well as for the forest community.

I see no rational reason to make any changes in either the management or ownership of this facility. Past history shows no presence of Native Americans other than the early surveyor notes mentioning the presence of a temporary village in the creek meadows located in the northwest corner of the tract. The center has always been open to cooperation with prospective users, including research entities.

For many years there has been a very positive relationship with the Band chairperson. The CFC is a very valuable asset for the university and the state, as evidenced by the strong support from the legislature in providing funding to make the CFC the fine facility it is today with a worldwide reputation.

I urge that you not support any land transfer. This is an irreplaceable asset and should remain a part of the university as was intended by the law that established it.

Thank you for your support on this important issue so it can continue to be open to all to provide opportunities for the many users.

Pine Knot News reader and retired Cloquet Forestry Center employee Al Alm sent this letter to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents and the Pine Knot News last week.