State officials are joining efforts with federal and tribal authorities to halt birch tree timber thefts threatening Wisconsin’s woodlands, a renewable resource that is important to the state’s economy, environment and culture. Increasing demand for birch products is putting the state’s birch trees at risk as illegal harvests continue on national, state, county and private properties.
State officials say it is difficult to determine how broad the issue of timber theft is; however, the increasing market demand for birch in home and business decor keeps making it a problem year after year. Wisconsin’s paper birch is now only 2.5 percent of forested land in the state, a decline of 54 percent since 1983.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Bureau of Law Enforcement are working together along with the Wisconsin County Forests Association, the U.S. Forest Service and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission to ensure responsible use of the state’s birch resources and discourage damaging illegal cutting.
“It is important to sustainably manage Wisconsin’s paper birch trees for woodland diversity and to protect this culturally significant resource,” said Carmen Hardin, DNR forest management bureau director. “A pilot program was developed to make permits available for state properties, in limited situations, for people who want to collect birch sapling and trees legally, responsibly and with minimal negative impacts to the forest.”
“We need everyone to work together to protect these resources and encourage people to report any suspicious harvesting activity in the woods,” said Dave Zebro, DNR warden. “Landowners, hikers and hunters can us help by reporting any possible timber theft in their area.”
Anyone who suspects someone is illegally harvesting white birch on public or private lands should contact a local DNR warden using the DNR hotline 800-TIP-WDNR (847-9367) or online.
If you are interested in harvesting white birch for decorative or other purposes, contact your state forest manager. For more information, search the DNR website for “Harvesting of Non-commercial Forest Products.”