Tourism and Forest Products: Twin Resource Sectors for Effective Community Development in the Lake States

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The central purpose of this paper is to help communities and their leaders think realistically about prospects for becoming combined-development centers. Its specifics are based on experience and three community-based case studies in the Lake States region. More general points made are quite likely applicable in other regions as well. Conditions necessary for a combined-development center are examined in terms of location factors for each sector separately, and "linking factors" that help the two sectors exist compatibly. Suggestions are made concerning forms of forest resource management that can help to foster combined development. This paper concludes with guidelines that may assist communities in objectively appraising their own prospects of becoming combined development centers.



The Lake States of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are the primary forested part of the Great Lakes Basin in the United States. Ontario is the portion of the Great Lakes Basin in Canada. In the late 1800s, Lake States forests were the source of building materials as well as financial capital for development of a large area of the midcontinent United States. The process by which this large region, which extends from the Appalachians to the Rockies (centering on Chicago), had its development underpinned and fostered by three resource sectors (timber, grain, and meat packing) has been vividly described by historian William F. Cronon (1991).

The forests of the Lake States have substantially recovered from original harvest, and are now in genuine resource renaissance (Lake States Forestry Alliance, 1988, 1996). These forests are again the resource base for a sizeable growing forest products industry, and are a substantial resource-based tourism sector. Attractive bodies of water, and relatively cool summer climate, play a role in the tourism sector.

A major analysis of trends and opportunities associated with forest resources in the Lake States was recently carried out by a regional organization formed in 1987 by the governors of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan (Lake States Forestry Alliance, 1996). One of some 25 study elements showed conclusively that communities with major activities in both tourism and forest products are substantially better off than communities more nearly one or the other. Specifically, they are better off in terms of employment and related community effects. This fact is a resource-related aspect of diversification of economic base. Multisector communities are more stable than more nearly single-sector communities.

Systematic analysis of unemployment rates for parts of the Lake States with various kinds of economic bases every month for six years was the point of departure for this analysis (Chappelle, 1997). It became clear that several "combined development centers" had unemployment rates both generally lower and more stable than communities more dependent on one sector alone. A related analysis made clear that combined-development centers also provide a wider variety of employment opportunities that may appeal to multiple family members by providing associated benefits to family stability and community character (Hacker & Andrews, 1997).

This article discusses how several combined-development centers have occurred and grown. Information is also presented on what appear to be important common attributes of combined-development centers; and vital conditions that seem quite necessary if a combined-development strategy is to succeed. Some observations are provided about how forests can be managed to contribute to combined-development; finally, some guides that may be useful to communities in appraising their own prospects of becoming a combined-development center are included here. The central purpose of this paper is to help communities and their leaders think realistically about prospects for becoming combined-development centers. …


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