ST. PAUL – State Rep. Shane Mekeland, R-Clear Lake, has authored a bill to make certain that sections of Sand Dunes State Forest in Orrock Township will not be clear-cut prior to 2035.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ forest management tactics have been a source of contention for years among Orrock residents, especially regarding plans for clear-cutting 3,000 acres of trees and changing the plot to an oak savanna.
While Mekeland said the DNR has verbally backed off the clear-cutting project at Sand Dunes, he indicates his legislation would put that commitment in writing. The bill (H.F. 2007) specifically states that, as the DNR manages Sand Dunes, “Forest stands must consist of multiple ages and multiple species to maximize forest health and resiliency.”
“On one hand, the DNR has said it wants to return the land to what it was in the 1850s, with grasslands and oak trees,” Mekeland said. “Then again, U of M ecologist Lee Frelich has said climate change will shift the forest-prairie border near St. Cloud 300 miles north by 2100. Why would we want to cut down pine stands and replace them with oaks and grasslands now, accelerating that process? The good thing is DNR representatives have told me they currently do not plan on clear-cutting 3,000-acres at Sand Dunes. I say that’s nice to hear and let’s put it in writing.”
Mekeland’s bill was introduced Monday in the House and now awaits a hearing.