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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Forestry Sells 23 Tracts At 58% Over Estimate

Marinette County Forest earnings are a bright spot in the annual struggle to make ends meet for the county budget. The annual report from 2012 showed the department earned $2.2 million more than it spent, and that profit margin, while down slightly, is going to be close to the $2.4 million projected for 2013. Those profits from the county’s 231,000 acres of County Forest go into the general fund to reduce the levy for all Marinette County taxpayers.

The department spent a total of $1.2 million in 2012 and the program brought in $3.4 million.

That bit of information was passed along to the Forestry Committee at their meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17, along with a report of a very successful timber sale the previous day. All of the 23 offerings were sold to the high bidders for a total of $1,228,245, which was 58 percent more than the appraised value of $779,281.

Timber is being sold from 1,491 acres, some as cord wood and some as hardwood logs. Successful bidders were Frank’s Logging, Ambrosius, Tigerton, Pomeroy, Biewer, and Buechler. All the successful bids were significantly above the weighted average for all bids. “As the timber sale showed, the markets are still very good,” County Forest Administrator Pete Vilas observed.

Income from those sales will not be realized until the timber is harvested and scaled over the next two or three years.

Assistant Forest Administrator Marcus Isaacson reported the county scalers had a busy month in September, with 66 scale tickets issued for 6,645 cords and 154.73 board feet. “We had a busy month and the trend continues,” Vilas commented. Vilas said the regular scaler was so busy that the foresters have been helping scale. By the end of September timber contract revenue totaled $1,618,026, which is $354,990 less than last year at this time, but still very good.

Wisconsin DNR Forestry Liaison Officer Dan Mertz said he puts the Marinette County timber sale information into the 15 year plan that he submits regularly to his bosses in Madison.

Mertz said the DNR had a bid opening for sales from Peshtigo Harbor, Beecher Creek, Peshtigo River State Forests and the Menominee River Recreational area but they fared poorly, particularly in comparison with Marinette County. He said there were few bids and the DNR decision may be to re-advertise. He felt loggers may have been awaiting the outcome of the recent Marinette County timber sale offerings.

Mertz thanked Marinette County for allowing the DNR to use Marinette County forest land for their fire control training in September. They had four ’dozers here, he said, including a large one they borrowed from Tomahawk for making fire breaks. They needed to practice on rough land, Mertz said.

Also on hand for the meeting were DNR Wildlife Biologists Dave Halfman and Janet Brehm, who is new to the Wausaukee DNR office. Mertz mentioned that Forestry Leader Mike Folgert has retired and Ryan Severson is his replacement

Brehm announced a “Deer Trustee” meeting and public hearing on proposed new state DNR deer management rules will be held at Crivitz High School from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30. There will be deer experts present to answer questions and present options, she said.

Mertz said 2015 will be the 50th anniversary of Wisconsin’s Wild Rivers program. The Pike River which flows through Marinette County is one of only four officially designated Wild Rivers in the state. Marinette County is the largest land owner on the river, followed by the DNR and then Coleman Lake Club. Wild Rivers are maintained in a natural state. On DNR Wild Rivers land there is walk-in access only, no motorized vehicles, no stream alterations, no maintained trails, few developed parking lots or canoe put-ins, and no camping, but there are a few public access points.

Committee member Al Mans asked if the DNR manages the forest on Wild Rivers land they own in Marinette County, noting timber on state property along the Pike River near his family cottage near Northland Baptist Bible College “is getting pretty mature.”

Mertz said there is no cutting within 150 feet of wild rivers to protect the aesthetic quality, and cutting within 400 feet is very limited. The master plan says to limit aspen growth because of concern about beavers damming it.

Mertz said during the coming two weeks county and state foresters would be doing hardwood marking in the Dunbar area off Camp 12 Road and in Beecher off Fire Lane and Joss Art roads.

He mentioned an upcoming forestry conference and mentioned it’s important to attend and talk with others about how they solve problems. For example, the DNR is finding that earthworms can be a problem in northern hardwoods management. They eat the forest floor debris that hardwood seedlings need to grow in, and this in turn allows dense mats of sedge grass to take root.

Deer also like to eat seedlings and can prevent hardwood regeneration, which in turn leads to ironwood and beech problems. During one forestry tour they saw a technique for using anchor chains to scarify soils and encourage hardwood regeneration. He noted Marinette County does own some anchor chains which it has used for scarification.

Committee member Larry Nichols said in his forest and yard, “the stuff I want to grow they eat, and the stuff I don’t want, they don’t like either.”

Mans suggested they should lift the restrictions that prohibit hunters from deer feeding, and wondered if this would minimize deer damage to forest seedlings. He noted Wisconsin imposed the anti-baiting restrictions because of chronic wasting disease, but he had found that in Wyoming, where deer baiting has been prohibited for years, “chronic wasting disease is rampant.”

After brief discussion the committee agreed to recommend to County Board at its next meeting that Vilas be authorized to purchase a 40 acre parcel in Amberg for $90,000. The property is totally surrounded by county forest land, Vilas said, adding that the money is there and all they need now is formal approval. He explained over a year ago the committee had authorized former County Forest Administrator John Scott (now retired) to pursue the purchase, but never authorized him to follow through with it. Scott obtained a grant last year for the purchase, Vilas said.

Vilas reported that on Tuesday, Sept. 24, he and Mertz had given a presentation about Marinette County for the Wisconsin Natural Resources at the Pembine Ranger Station. He said NR board members were impressed, and there was considerable discussion.

“We’ve always had a good relationship here with the DNR,” commented Committee Chair Bill Walker. “We’ve never had a problem.”

“The dedication of the DNR employees here is unbelievable,” agreed Mans. It was suggested that Vilas and Mertz should do a similar presentation during the Association Summer Tour in Marinette County in 2015, and Vilas said he wants to do that at breakfast on the first day.

Vilas added the committee should start thinking now about ideas for that tour, and places they should show the visitors. They will need perhaps 150 rooms for overnight lodging, and would like to avoid long bus trips with nothing to see between stops.

Vilas reported Twin Bridge Campground stayed open a week later in the season than usual and there were 26 campers the last weekend.

Forestry and Parks Department crews worked together to remove a cabin at Camp Bird that was destroyed when a tree fell through the roof during an August storm. No one was in the cabin at the time, so no one was hurt, Vilas reported. Since the slab is in place, Forestry and Parks personnel will use timber cut at the Pembine Forestry Shop to rebuild the cabin, after which it will be finished with half-log siding like other cabins at Camp Bird.

“We’re fortunate to have personnel with the skills to do that type of construction,” Walker commented.

Vilas said even the signs on the Highway/Forestry department building in Peshtigo were made and put up by personnel from the Highway, Parks and Forestry Departments.

Requests from Marshal Giese and Wild Rivers for extensions for one timber harvest contract each without penalties were approved, due to extenuating circumstances. Similar request from Ambrosius and from Wild Rivers for two other contracts were denied, but the contracts were extended with the stumpage increases provided in county policy.

One year timber sale contract extensions were approved as requested for 16 contracts, with stumpage increases based on established policy.

A wood storage request from Wild Rivers was approved.

While reviewing bills paid by the County Finance Department on behalf of the Forestry Department, Administrative Assistant Kellie Hartman reported the water bill was paid twice and she has negotiated a refund. Other refunds are also coming on bills paid in error.

The department received an $18,800 insurance payment for a Forest Patrol vehicle that was totaled after the frame bent from hitting a rock. It was fully covered except for the $1,000 deductible, “so for $1,000 we got a brand new truck,” Vilas reported.

Committee member Ken Mattison asked about money allocated for equipment leases, and Vilas explained Forestry and Highway Departments trade use of vehicles, equipment and even personnel, and the equipment transactions are entered as “lease” agreements.


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