Letter: Still waiting for more on forestry center
June 9, 2023
With University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel on her way out, people are wondering if the future of her initiative to hand over the Cloquet Forestry Center in its entirety to the Fond du Lac Band is still steaming ahead.
I have been following the issue closely and I do not have any new information. I assume the non-transparent discussions are still ongoing. I suspect there will be a co-management agreement signed similar to what recently occurred with the national forests in Minnesota. The Chippewa National Forest signed a management agreement with The Leech Lake Band. The Superior National Forest is now going to share management with the U.S. Forest Service and three Ojibwe Bands: Fond du Lac, Grand Portage and Bois Forte. All of these lands were ceded by the tribe to the government with the hunting, fishing and gathering rights being retained by the Ojibwe.
The national forests were originally established to provide a source of wood for the U.S. and balance timber management with needs of the recreational, wildlife and water resources. Overall, they have done a reasonably good job of their management. I fail to understand the need for these new management agreements, other than to establish goodwill which, of course, is important.
But I feel the rights of the legal owners of the land should also be recognized. It seems like today’s generation is somehow being held responsible for the wrongs of a century ago, even though they had nothing to do with what happened then. A lot of important research and preservation has happened at the forestry center over the past century, and those accomplishments should not be overlooked. The long economic history that Cloquet has with wood-product mills also should be noted (as outlined in recent stories about Sappi and USG).
I don’t understand how adding another wrong can accomplish anything except create animosity. Two wrongs do not make a right.
Hopefully, the recent management agreements have involved a discussion about the future of our precious resources. If the Forestry Center is given to the Band as a goodwill gesture, what is the plan for operation? What will happen to the many ongoing research projects and the educational programs? Too many questions remain unanswered, since the meetings are all held in secret with no transparency.
Al Alm is a forest professor emeritus and longtime staff member and former administrator of the Cloquet Forestry Center.