The productive, managed forests of Wisconsin are the foundation upon which our dynamic forest products industry is built, Wisconsin's second largest industry, the largest employer in 10 counties, providing direct employment for 64,000 citizens statewide, and the #1 paper producing state in the nation for the last 60 years. Our forest products industry generates $24 billion dollars of value into our State's economy, shipping forest products valued at $14.2 billion in 2012, supporting 3.8 additional jobs for every forestry job, and creating $1.3 million of economic output in other sectors for every $1 million of forestry output.
The stable and long term funding supplied by our Forestry Mill Tax has played a key role in making Wisconsin a leader in forestry nationwide - from the management and certification of our public and private forestlands, to the support of outdoor recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat protection and development, watershed protection, and environmental education throughout our State. Other states lacking such funding have been unable to match the progress we have made over the years in developing our public and privately owned forests and the industries they support.
Governor Walker's proposed budget for the 2017-2019 biennium would eliminate approximately $180 million in Forestry Mill Tax revenue and replace it with General Purpose Revenue, thereby ending 87 years of stable funding for State forestry programs in Wisconsin and subject future forestry funding to potential reductions and cutbacks in programs. Instead of the bipartisan support we now have for our state forestry funding and programs, the consensus for our spending commitment on forestry would have to be renegotiated every two years in the legislature. Would our resolve to support our long-term commitments to forestry remain strong, or would it erode in the face of political divisions and completing priorities such as funding for public schools, roads, or law enforcement?
The Wisconsin State Tree Farm Committee, representing more than 48,320 individual and family members who combined own and manage more than 2.8 million certified acres of woodlands in Wisconsin, oppose this change in funding strategy for Wisconsin's forestry programs. We urge our legislators and the Governor's office to remove the budget provision that zeroes out the Forestry Mill Tax thereby eliminating it as a source of long-term funding for our State's forestry programs.