Tennessee's Forest Management Advisory Panel, widely split on key issues

only three weeks ago, has hammered out 29 recommendations for state

forest-use policies, its director said last week.

Gary Schneider, forester and associate dean of Agricultural Sciences and

Natural Resources, said the recommendations emphasize education, research,

incentives for ecologically-sound management practices and funding

mechanisms for the state plan.

A draft of the report goes to Gov. Don Sundquist, the Tennessee Forestry

Commission and state legislators this fall.

Schneider said each recommendation had to receive approval from at least 15

of the 29 voting panel members. Twenty-four of the 29 points were supported

by more than 75 percent of the panel, he said.

"It was different for such a diverse group to reach an acceptable

compromise on so many issues," Schneider said. "But they found effective

ways to reach a constructive accord for their somewhat disparate

views.

"That willingness to seek a balance between often competing interests was

the key element in reaching a majority consensus."

Schneider said recommendations were directed at state-owned forests,

non-industrial private landowners, and blanket recommendations for all 13

million acres in Tennessee, regardless of ownership.

Points covering state-owned lands seek to increase research, education and

personnel for state forest lands; encourage public participation in state

forest planning; and establish management planning for non-game species,

such as some birds and other wildlife that are not hunted.

The panel suggests establishing a mechanism to allow private landowners to

challenge government restrictions on land use. It also endorses incentives

such as tax breaks for voluntarily use of best management practices to

minimize water pollution and habitat destruction.

Other panel recommendations include:

--establishing forest management education programs to teach

environmentally acceptable harvesting techniques, safety and general

forestry in state high schools and technical schools.

--increased punishment, such as fines, for loggers who violate water

quality laws.

--reduction of forest fragmentation.

Schneider said the panel also outlined potential funding strategies to

raise revenues for forest management, such as a $1-$2 increase in vehicle

license fees, or a severance tax on cutting trees, producing fiber and

other forest products.

The group has met monthly since January. At a meeting less than a month

ago, members failed in their first attempt to agree on

recommendations.

Schneider said panel members overcame many of their differences to reach

consensus this week.

"They realized it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve state

forest management policies, and they worked hard to make it happen," he

said. "I was optimistic from the beginning, but the success of this

operation has exceeded my expectations."