After decades of drought, Wisconsin’s economy is back on track and wildlife populations are soaring, thanks to a booming timber industry.
But that boom came at a price, as the state became the poster child for the disastrous environmental impacts of industrial logging and the construction of power plants, dams, highways and other infrastructure.
Now, thanks in part to a timber boom that was fueled by the logging of old-growth forests and new-growth woodlands, Wisconsin is reaping some of the benefits of the boom, even if it has become a hotbed of environmental pollution and pollution-related deaths.
The Wisconsin Timber Board estimates the timber industry has produced nearly 2.5 million jobs in the state since the 1990s.
But with timber prices skyrocketing, the timber boom has left the state facing one of the biggest challenges of its recent history.
And the problems aren’t over yet.
A new study published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management finds that while the state has seen a net gain in forest cover in recent years, the forests are losing their ability to sequester carbon and are likely to begin to absorb CO2 as well.
The study is the first to look at the effects of a broad spectrum of environmental factors on forests, including carbon dioxide levels, trees and plants, and how they affect carbon storage in forests.
It also found that the number of old and young trees in the forests of Wisconsin is on the decline, and some of those trees are already dying, with one-third of the forests that are in the study now considered dead.
The authors say the study shows that the problem isn’t just a problem of forests; it’s also a problem with the state, with the federal government and with the world.
But they warn that it is important to not think of the problems as the result of a single logging project.
“The biggest issue in the Wisconsin timber industry is the way in which it’s being managed,” said James Burt, a forest ecologist with the University of Wisconsin.
“There are too many decisions being made, too many projects being planned, and there’s too much waste.”
Burt is co-author of a new study that finds that in Wisconsin, timber production is driving a trend that is damaging to forests.
“We found that timber harvesting is driving the increase in the number and types of forest cover declines that are affecting forests throughout the state,” said Burt.
He added that the increasing logging in the northern part of the state also contributes to the problem, because the forest cover there is also becoming thinner.
Burt and his colleagues also found an increase in CO2 levels, as trees are being planted, and that the trees are growing faster and more rapidly, creating a higher level of CO2 in the atmosphere.
“Our study shows us that we need to think about the forestry industry in a broader context,” said Chris Gillett, an ecologist at the University at Buffalo.
“They’re responsible for a lot of the damage to our forests, the way they’re managed, and the ways in which they’re being managed.”
Gillethts study found that between 1990 and 2012, the number for the state of trees in Wisconsin increased by 1.4 million trees.
But in the last decade, the numbers of trees that have been planted to grow the new timber have increased by more than 100 million trees, while the total number of trees planted to produce new timber fell by 50 million.
“This study shows the forest industry is having a significant effect on the climate,” said Gillehts co-lead author, David D. P. Wiles.
“In the future, we’re going to have to reevaluate how we manage this industry.”
Pressed for comment on the study, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Forestry said in a statement that “the current state of the Wisconsin forests is not an issue of national importance,” adding that it would take years to quantify the effects.
The DNR said it is working to develop policies and processes to help ensure that logging is conducted responsibly, and is working with industry stakeholders to identify solutions to address the problems that it has identified.
But many environmentalists are worried that a return to the logging industry could threaten the livelihoods of some people who live in the forest and the health of wildlife.
“It is really a case of what are we going to do about this now, rather than what are they going to get out of it?” said Gail H. Miller, director of the environmental health program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Miller also worries that the state will not be able to address its own problems as quickly as it might like.
“A lot of these problems are really rooted in the old timber industry, and they’re not going to be solved in the short term,” she said.
“What they’re going the other way, what they’re trying to do is to push the envelope.
It’s not going the