Forest Management Group Seeks Consensus On State Plan (257)

NASHVILLE — Tennessee’s Forest Management Advisory Panel is making progress, but hasn’t reached a consensus on state forest-use policies, its director said Monday.

Dr. Gary Schneider said the 40-member panel has met monthly since January. It is now working on recommendations for a report to the Governor, legislature and state forest commission.

The panel met July 31 but snagged on whether to change forest management rules from voluntary to mandatory, how to enforce those rules and how to best use scientific data, said Schneider, a forester and associate dean at UT-Knoxville.

“After seven meetings of gathering information, talking to experts and visiting sites in the field, this was our first attempt to reach a consensus on the issues,” Schneider said.

“I wish I could say we reached it, but we need more dialogue. There is still a lot of debate and people are defending their positions.”

Schneider said the state’s goal is to maintain a healthy balance between consumption of timber and retention of enough forest to protect water quality, recreational uses and natural beauty.

The panel will meet twice more before its recommendations are due in September.

Despite division between industry, private landowners and environmentalists, Schneider said he is confident the panel will come up with the best plan for the state.

“This is a large panel with many stakeholders. This was our first attempt to reach a consensus on controversial issues,” Schneider said. “We realize now that to make recommendations the legislature can act on, we better agree on some major issues and get on with it.”

Contact: Dr. Gary Schneider (423-974-7506)