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WIIGWAASAATIG An eight-foot birch like this brings in around 2 for harvesters. COR photo A seven-foot birch pole room divider set into a planter box retails for around 300 at a national home furnishing store. COR photo PAGE 9 MAZINAIGANSUMMER 2016 By Alex Wrobel GLIFWC Forest Ecologist Commercial demand for wiigwaasaatig birch prompts multi-agency management effort OdanahWis.Inrecentyearstherehasbeenanotableincreaseintheharvest of paper birch wiigwaasaatig seedlings saplings and branches across the Ceded Territory. As mentioned in the recent Mazinaigan article Commercial demand for birch on the rise as species declines GLIFWC Ziigwan 2016 tribal members and non-members alike are increasingly concerned about the wiigwaasaatig resource. Harvesters are cutting young trees branches and even mature trees to supply the growing craft and decoration industry.As the demand and the monetary incentive for these products increases paper birch is at serious risk of being over- harvested. WithrequestsfromGLIFWCmembertribesthereisnowacollaborativeeffort underway to learn more about this matter. On March 9 at the Bad River Conven- tion Center a meeting was held with representatives from GLIFWC tribal natural resource departments tribal harvesters the Bureau of Indian Affairs U.S. Forest Service Wisconsin DNR and several northern Wisconsin counties. The meeting was an information-sharing session to better understand this issue as a whole and discuss what the next steps should be. So what did we learn Harvesting of seedlings saplings and branches for commercial purposes is occurring across all jurisdictions. Various tribes have either implemented a mora- torium to close the on-reservation harvest of wiigwaasaatig products except for the bark wiigwaas or have at least discussed it. One difficulty with restricting this harvestactivityisthatitcanimpactthoseharvesterswhoaregatheringforpersonal or ceremonial use. The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is still allowing the general public to harvest small amounts of birch poles and GLIFWC tribal memberscancontinuetoharvestlodgepolesundertheTribal-USFSMemorandum of Understanding MOU. The Brule River State Forest is considering a trial birch thinning permit that would direct harvesters to allowable areas. Bayfield County is allowing the harvest of already-downed trees following timber sales whereas Douglas County is discontinuing all permits for birch harvesting after too many violations. While different management strategies are being discussed there is a general consensus that this is a widespread and growing issue and that consistent regulations across jurisdictions may be the best approach. Afterafulldayofdiscussionitwasdeterminedthatasmallersub-committee consisting of tribal and agency land managers law enforcement personnel and harvesters should be formed to follow up on ideas discussed at the meeting. This includes finding a way to quantify the extent of this harvest activity and its long- term impact on wiigwaasaatig populations. One way to accomplish this may be to develop relationships with the buyers of these products as they would have the most accurate information on the volume of birch products being sold. Another possibility would be to establish a permitting system that would direct harvesters to areas where harvesting would have less of an overall impact.Allowable harvest areas might include timber sale areas power corridors road right-of-ways areas scheduled to be cleared for logging roads or areas that are set aside for this type of harvest activity. Directing harvesters to allowed harvest areas would lessen the pressure on stands that are being managed for regenerating healthy wiigwaasaatig populations. As harvesters often target the youngest birch it is the regenerating birch stands that are often the easiest place to harvest. One of the most important tasks of the sub-committee will be to determine what qualifies as a sustainable harvest. This would enable land-managers to provide harvesters with guidelines that allow them to continue harvesting in a manner that will not jeopardize the long-term health of wiigwaasaatig populations and the ability of future generations to harvest as well. Stay tuned for updates as these management strategies progress. In the meantime if you are looking to harvest birch saplings or twigs off-reservation on Wisconsin state lands or National Forests located in the Ceded Territory please note You must obtain a miscellaneous forest products permit from your tribal registration station. To harvest birch saplings you will need a lodgepoles per- mit which allows the harvest of any tree less than 5 in diameter at breast height dbh. Each permit allows the harvest of 75 trees per year. Beyond 75 trees you must work with your tribal registration station and the land manager to obtain a large-scale harvest permit. Its up to us to treat this sacred tree in a respectful way that will allow it to continue to carry out its role on the landscape and that will allow future generations to respectfully harvest this tree as well.