Pledge by State of Wisconsin
State of Wisconsin Forest Conservation and Tree Planting PledgeTotal Trees Pledged: 89,265,244
Supporting actions: Sustainable Forestry, Avoided Deforestation, Nursery Development, Data and Technological Tools, Science and Technical Assistance, Tree Protection through Management, Forest Product Markets and Innovation, Workforce Development, Environmental Education, Conservation Finance,
The State of Wisconsin celebrated Earth Day 2021 with Governor Tony Evers signing an Executive Order pledging to protect and restore Wisconsin’s forestland by conserving 125,000 acres and planting 75 million trees by 2030. The pledge includes providing wildlife habitat, supporting rural economies and equitable distribution of tree canopies in urban areas while continuing to support the responsible management of public and private forestland across Wisconsin.
When fully realized, the state pledge will result in 28.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide stored over the next 50 years. That is equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide produced by six million passenger vehicles for a year.
The Executive Order directs the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) which is guided by a mission to protect and enhance the state’s natural resources to implement the pledge in partnership with public, private, and non-governmental partners on behalf of the state of Wisconsin.
Forests are woven into the culture of Wisconsin where 17 million acres of forestland cover nearly half the state and are vital to the social, ecological and economic well-being. Both the wide variety of forest-based recreational activities enjoyed by the public and the products made from our forests are crucial to the state and local economies.
Forest products contribute $24.4 billion annually to Wisconsin’s economy, and forestry is the largest employer in seven counties across the state. Ensuring that these benefits continue for future generations is a true public-private partnership in Wisconsin where nearly 60% of the forestland is owned by individuals and families. Forest landowners, industry, conservation groups and many other organizations collaborate, under the guidance of Wisconsin’s State Forest Action Plan, to sustain and grow the benefits that forests offer.
In addition to safeguarding water resources, providing wildlife habitat and supporting rural economies, maintaining healthy forests is also essential to mitigating climate change. In order to retain forest cover, the state plans to use the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund to continue acquiring forest land for state and non-governmental entities. Additionally, the stewardship fund and other funding sources will be used to obtain conservation easements, preventing the conversion of forestland to other land uses.
Millions of trees will be planted each year on public and private lands in rural and urban settings with support from state programs. In most U.S. cities, the distribution of urban tree canopy disproportionately benefits high income neighborhoods. A tree planting program targeting low-income urban communities would help to address inequity.
Urban tree planting combined with enhanced tree maintenance can substantially increase urban forest carbon storage and deliver additional carbon mitigation benefits through energy savings. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of trees will be provided by our state reforestation program, which supplied Wisconsin landowners with more than 1.6 billion high-quality, native seedlings for reforestation purposes since 1911. We also provide free tree seedlings for Wisconsin fourth-grade students to plant in honor of Arbor Day each year.
The Wisconsin DNR will continue its efforts to manage existing forestland, ensure that current forests stay healthy and improve regeneration opportunities. The State of Wisconsin has more than six million acres of public and private forestland enrolled in independent, third-party certification programs. These programs help ensure forests sustain environmental, social and economic benefits.
The State of Wisconsin works across multiple agencies and with many government, non-profit and private partners to safeguard Wisconsin’s natural resources and serve its citizens. Some of these participating agencies and partners are listed below.
• Department of Natural Resources
• Department of Administration
• Department of Transportation
• Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
• Department of Workforce Development
• Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
• University of Wisconsin System
• Wisconsin Technical College System
• Wisconsin County Forests Association
Acres: 125,000 / Trees: 14,265,244
The State of Wisconsin is committed to protecting and managing forests for the well-being of its citizens and economy. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) actively encourages participation in programs that support sustainability standards and best practices, including:
• Forest Certification – Management of Wisconsin’s forests will continue to meet ecological, social and economic sustainability standards through independent, third-party certification.
• Landowner Assistance Programs – Technical and financial assistance programs are essential for continued sustainable forest management on privately-owned woodlands. The state will continue to administer private forestry programs (e.g., Managed Forest Law Program and Wisconsin Forest Landowner Grant Program), providing management assistance to private landowners, encouraging the practice of forestry and offers forestry benefits to the public.
• Forest Legacy – Wisconsin’s Forest Legacy Program aims to keep forests as forests by protecting large, unfragmented blocks of forestlands, providing the highest conservation value and public benefit while minimizing conversion to non-forest uses through the purchase of conservation easements. Easements are a powerful tool to maintain forestland, ensuring that they continue to supply services and benefits.
More than 1.5 million acres of DNR-managed state lands are dual certified under the Forest Stewardship Council® and Sustainable Forestry Initiative® standards and nearly 70,000 acres of state lands managed by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands are certified under the Forest Stewardship Council®. Another 2.3 million acres of county forest land are certified under one or both standards. Additionally, 2.5 million acres of private lands under the Managed Forest Law Program, administered by the state, are dual certified under the American Tree Farm System® and Forest Stewardship Council® standards.
Independent, third-party certification ensures that forests are responsibly managed and safeguards environmental, social and economic benefits. By sourcing products from certified forests, publishers, building contractors and manufacturers, the DNR can ensure that these parties do not contribute toward deforestation or other harmful land management practices.
The DNR reforestation team continues producing seedlings to supply demand from the tree planting community while maintaining its ability to increase production at other state-owned nursery facilities. Also, the team will establish a forest regeneration center and a tree improvement center within its nurseries. The seeds for state nursery production will be procured from sources throughout the state to foster genetic diversity in seedlings, seed storage and preservation. The DNR and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will also support private nurseries through active information exchange, training, collaboration and reforestation promotion efforts.
Urban trees cover a small area relative to the whole state but play an important role in improving air and water quality and public health. However in most U.S. cities, the distribution of urban tree canopy often disproportionately benefits high income neighborhoods. A tree planting program targeting low-income urban communities would help to address inequity. Urban tree planting combined with enhanced tree maintenance can substantially increase urban forest carbon storage and deliver additional carbon mitigation benefits through energy savings, especially if tree planting programs are targeted to urban heat islands. Associated benefits include improved public health, reduced city temperatures (heat islands), stormwater reduction, reduced heating and cooling costs, improved air quality, increased property values and other social, community, wildlife and economic co-benefits. Research has found that trees offer many positive attributes to urban residents, improving air quality and public health, reducing heat and heat illnesses, lowering utility bills improving water quality and reducing flooding and stormwater runoff. Trees also reduce energy demands because of their shade-giving abilities and transpiration of water vapor.
Data and Technological Tools
Wisconsin has several forest inventory programs that provide valuable data regarding rural and urban forest management. DNR implements the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program at a double spatial intensity, reducing error and increasing tree numbers' accuracy, including stocking to identify cover types that are understocked. Similarly, the urban FIA program is implemented at five times spatial intensity. The state also coordinates the Wisconsin Continuous Forest Inventory Program on all state forests, with one plot per 160 acres of state forest land.
The Forest Regeneration Monitoring Program is a new program that places regeneration plots in recently harvested stands within forest types of concern throughout the 45 counties with more than 30% forest cover. Finally, the Wisconsin Field Inventory and Report System (WisFIRS) enables foresters to store data collected in the field, used to plan and track completed treatments. These programs provide high-quality data for all of Wisconsin’s forest types and opportunities to manage and increase trees on the ground.
Science and Technical Assistance
Many agencies and programs within Wisconsin offer key scientific research and technical assistance for forest conservation, regeneration and tree planting efforts. The University of Wisconsin (UW) System is an international leader in forestry and horticultural research. UW-Madison’s Division of Extension conducts important research and provides extensive technical assistance. The DNR has numerous programs engaged in forestry research and technical assistance for forest management and tree plantings, such as the Forest Economics and Ecology Section and the Urban Forestry Program.
Tree Protection through Management
DNR forest health staff monitors pests, diseases and invasive plants in public and private forests. They share guidance on prevention and management to minimize losses from these threats. Staff members also work with the reforestation program to ensure all planting stock produced by the state nursery is healthy and carries no infection that could emerge when seedlings are planted in more challenging natural conditions.
While healthy forests can typically accommodate damage from native pests without the need for intervention, invasive pests, diseases and plants can cause significant damage if preventative action is not taken. The DNR dedicates funds for invasive species management on public lands. Additional state programs provide treatment funds for private landowners (e.g., the Wisconsin Forest Landowner Grant Program), local governments and community organizations (e.g., urban forestry grants). Technical assistance to these audiences is available.
Meanwhile, excessive browsing in areas where deer populations are high can prevent the successful regeneration of forests. Hunting is permitted on most DNR properties. Allowing public access for hunting is part of the Managed Forest Law program for private woodland owners and offers tax incentives to participants. If hunting is not helping young trees survive, landowners may obtain nuisance abatement permits from the DNR to reduce the deer population on their property to a more balanced level.
Forest Product Markets and Innovation
Healthy markets are vital to sustainable forest management and keeping forests as forests. Wisconsin’s 1,200 forest product manufacturers help maintain forest health by generating economic revenue, which incentivizes forest management and discourages land-use change. A lack of demand for forest resources will reduce the capacity to manage and promote healthy forests for the future. The DNR Forest Products Services Program offers technical assistance to businesses interested in implementing sustainable forestry practices. The program also explores and promotes markets with locally-produced wood products that aim to sequester more carbon via wood product utilization, industry growth and sustainable forest management.
The UW System and the Wisconsin Technical College System provide educational and workforce development opportunities to hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are involved in tree or forest-related fields. The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics reports that between 2020-2030 entry level jobs (planting, trimming, pruning etc) in urban forestry will increase by 10%. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce development projects that between 2016-2026 there will be an 8% increase in the jobs outlook for Wisconsin Arborists (DWD 2018). Urban wood programs help build economies and utilize wood products.
Meanwhile, the state administers an apprenticeship program focusing on arboriculture and carpentry. State agencies host training and workshops on planting and maintaining trees and innovative ways to use forest products. Lastly, the state offers regular employment and internship opportunities in tree and forest management.
Wisconsin supports environmental education by supplying annual funding for forestry education programs administered by the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education (WCEE) through the UW-Stevens Point. The funding supports a K-12 forestry education program known as LEAF, Wisconsin’s implementation of Project Learning Tree (a national environmental education program that uses trees and forests as the vehicle to teach students how to think critically about the environment) and the Wisconsin school forest program, a network of outdoor classrooms.
The DNR also provides annual funding to the Forest Exploration Center to manage a state-owned property in Milwaukee County for forestry education, helping to reconnect Wisconsin’s largest urban population with our natural resources. We collaborate with partners throughout the state to celebrate Arbor Day every April and raise awareness of trees and forests' importance to the state and its residents. To support schools in their Arbor Day programs, the DNR supplies free tree seedlings to fourth-grade classrooms.
The DNR supports several donation programs that aid forest conservation and tree planting efforts. There are dedicated gift funds from private companies for tree planting and a general “Forest for the Future” gift fund for small donations that support tree planting. Each of these gift funds targets tree planting activities on state lands.
Counties with lands enrolled in the County Forest Law program are eligible to apply for interest-free loans from the DNR, used for economically productive forestry operations, including land acquisition. The state also provides administrator grants and sustainable forestry grants to these counties.
The State of Wisconsin engages in ecologically appropriate forest and tree conservation and regeneration, bringing long-term benefits to Wisconsin’s communities. Lands prioritized for acquisition through purchase or easement are not selected solely for one purpose or benefit. Instead, they are reviewed holistically for the range of benefits they can provide, including their role in creating or protecting habitats.
Likewise, trees planted in rural or urban areas, their locations are chosen intentionally, and the plantings are done professionally with species selected with nuance and care. The adage of “right tree, right place” is followed regardless of tree location, and temporal considerations are also thoughtfully considered. Species and location decisions should be ecologically and socially responsible now and in the future. In this way, the impacts of climate and climate change are essential to incorporate into planting deliberations.
The same perspective of ecological and social appropriateness applies to habitats, as well. This pledge focuses on forests and trees, but the state will not attempt to transition other vital ecosystems, such as prairies or wetlands, into forestland.
Though the state engages in a wide array of conservation, planting and regeneration activities, they are not carried out in a vacuum. State programs engage with stakeholders to ensure that trees' activities and benefits are pursued with as much buy-in and participation from local communities and relevant partners as possible.
Finally, although the scope of these nature-based solutions is large, significant cuts in emissions are needed on top of these efforts if Wisconsin is to meet the challenge of climate change.
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