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June 25, 2019

Jacob Friede/Lakeland TimesIn celebration of Arbor Day, chief DNR state forester Fred Souba, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest supervisor Paul Strong, DNR secretary’s director James Yach, State Senator Janet Bewley, and Jane Seivert of the Wisconsin County Forest Association, plant a swamp oak tree in front of the Wisconsin state forestry headquarters in Rhinelander.
Jacob Friede/Lakeland Times

In celebration of Arbor Day, chief DNR state forester Fred Souba, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest supervisor Paul Strong, DNR secretary’s director James Yach, State Senator Janet Bewley, and Jane Seivert of the Wisconsin County Forest Association, plant a swamp oak tree in front of the Wisconsin state forestry headquarters in Rhinelander.
5/16/2019 7:30:00 AM
DNR celebrates Arbor Day with tree planting and open house in Rhinelander
Jacob Friede
of the Lakeland Times

Arbor Day is an annual celebration of the benefits and beauty of trees, and to recognize it, as well as the forest industry in general, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources held a tree planting ceremony and open house Tuesday at the State Forestry Headquarters in Rhinelander.

A crowd of citizens, DNR staff, and guests from across the forestry industry gathered in front of the headquarters and service center building on Sutliff Avenue, while four different tree species, all native to Wisconsin, were planted curbside.

A river birch, hackberry, basswood, and swamp oak tree were all planted to replace ash trees which had fallen victim to the Emerald ash borer.

"These are really neat and diverse tree species to highlight out here in front of the forestry headquarters here in Rhinelander," said DNR secretary's director James Yach, one of the speakers at the ceremony.

Besides praising the state's forests for providing hunting, fishing, and wildlife habitat, improved air and water quality, and aesthetic beauty, Yach also highlighted the economic impact the forestry industry has had on Wisconsin.

"The forestry industry generates $24.7 billion and also provides almost 65,000 jobs," he said.

And nowhere is that impact felt more than in the Northwoods.

"Forestry is the number one employer in 10 counties and most of those are across the north and hence the move of the forestry headquarters," Yach said.

The forestry division chose to move from Madison and be headquartered in Rhinelander in 2018 in order to be closer to where much of the forestry activity in the state was happening.

Fred Souba, the state's chief forester, also addressed the audience and said the Rhinelander location was ideal because of the close proximity to some of the forestry division's key partners, like the U.S. Forest Service and the Wisconsin County Forest Association, which are also in Rhinelander.

"Having the opportunity to be closer to them and work closer together was very important to us," Souba said. "We also have over 60 percent of our field staff north of Highway 29 and being located here, we hoped, would give us closer proximity to those folks as well. The benefits we see in moving the headquarters here is it provides division leadership with challenges and needs, and the ability to understand the challenges and needs of our customers as well as our partners across the resources we manage."

Currently, there are 80 staff employees, representing all divisions of the DNR, at the forestry headquarters building, from fish and game biologists to air and water specialists to customer service representatives. In the forestry division in particular there are 24 staff members - 18 full time and six limited term employees.

"They represent all of our bureaus and sections within our division," Souba said. "Field operations, forest economics ecology, urban forestry, forest health, private forestry."

The multifaceted forestry industry in Wisconsin is something state senator Janet Brewley, who also spoke at the event, has taken upon herself to learn the ins and outs of. She was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and being engulfed in such a massive urban landscape kept her distant from the concepts of forestry. But the more educated she has become about it, the more she appreciates it, and she urged all Wisconsinites to do the same.

"So the whole concept of forestry and the impact that forestry can have on an entire population is something that I came to gradually, and step by step," the senator said. "No matter where you live or how much exposure you have to either a tree or to forestry you deserve to know about both. You deserve to know about the larger concepts of forestry and why they're so important to the state of Wisconsin and you also have to value the integrity and significance of a single tree."

All of those facets and the Arbor Day spirit came together at the end of the tour of the newly remodeled headquarters office which followed the tree planting. In a conference room, there was a beautiful 14-by-15-foot black ash table. The wood originated in Wisconsin and was sent to Rhinelander by Ashland Mat, a lumber producer in Ashland. The table was then assembled by Enterprise Wood Products of Rhinelander.

"So you look at wood that's grown here, harvested by loggers here, transported by truckers here, built by people who live in Rhinelander and put in the Rhinelander headquarters," Souba said. "How does that get any better?"

Jacob Friede may be reached at or

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