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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Timber Sale Revenue Is $2,563,177 In 2013

Despite a dismal start, Marinette County Forestry Department ended 2013 with timber contract revenue of $2,563,176.97, nearly $91,000 more than last year. A spurt during the second half of the year made up for lagging revenue in the first half. By the end of June, 2013, timber sales revenue was $430,000 below the same period in 2012.

Once expenses are paid and replacements are provided for, excess timber sale revenue goes into the general fund, where it is used to reduce the tax levy paid by property owners.

Forest Administrator Pete Vilas said the revenue exceeded the 2013 budget estimate of $2.4 million, but still falls short of the record year of 2005, when timber sales from the County Forest brought in $2.9 million. Appraised value of timber sales set up in 2013 totals $1,790,352 on 3,224 acres so far but more are to be tallied, Assistant Forest Administrator Marcus Isaacson reported.

Vilas recalled that when the logging market crashed in late 2005, lots of loggers turned in their jobs and took the bond loss rather than suffer the losses they would have incurred by harvesting the timber and selling below cost.

Vilas said the timber market price is about the highest it has ever been for red pine, but pulpwood prices are down. Overall, Vilas said, Prices have crept back up since the bottom fell out of the market a few years ago, but popple still isn’t bringing much.

Supervisor Larry Nichols remarked that hardly anyone makes pulp in Wisconsin any more, and all the small paper mills are out of business.

The committee spent considerable time discussing the Summer Tour that Marinette County will host in 2015 for Wisconsin County Forest Association (WCFA). Conclusion was that everyone should make list of ideas to be discussed at a special meeting devoted to planning the conference. Lodging will be needed for 150 guests, and Vilas said even Four Seasons does not have enough rooms, although its meeting facilities would work very well.

Consensus so far seems to be that lodging would be in Marinette, although a Tourism Alliance member offered to tally the number of rooms available within a reasonable distance from each other in the Twin Bridge area. Vilas felt rather than long bus trips through the 230,000 acres of Marinette County Forest they might arrange tours of forest related industries based in and near Marinette.

Nichols mentioned flooring factories and wood industries in Peshtigo and the machine shops that service them. Supervisor Al Mans mentioned the Pellet Plant in Peshtigo. Vilas noted the waste from one industry becomes the raw material for another, but it all starts with the forests. Sentinel Structures in Peshtigo manufactures wood laminate beams, and there is the de-inking plant in Menominee that turns waste paper into a pulp product. There is also the Arboretum, with old growth forest at Harmony Hardwoods.

DNR Wildlife Biologist Janet Brehm said the state will be having a 50-year celebration of the Wild Rivers program, which includes the Pike River, and suggested they might tie in some sort of event, perhaps at Dave’s Falls.

No matter where or when the planning meeting is, I want Bill (Walker) there, declared Nichols, adding he has so much knowledge! Walker is an officer of WCFA and has for many years chaired the County Forestry, Parks and Outdoor Recreation Committee. He is not seeking return to office and will be retiring as a County Supervisor after the April 1 election.

The committee approved Vilas’ request to carry over money left from a US Fish and Wildlife Grant for Kirtland’s Warbler habitat and also timber sale improvement funds. The grant money keeps coming in and we just have to carry it over to do our work,Vilas commented.

Vilas reported the department sold everything they had listed on the state website auction, bringing in $25,040.80, which was more than he expected. The money will go into the equipment fund. Items sold included the old sawmill, which brought $8,975, and a truck with a plow that sold for $9,435. Vilas said Building and Grounds administrator John Machnick set up the sale. I know lots of departments are happy with the prices they got, Vilas declared. Mans noted the last few live auctions for the county attracted hardly any customers.

Under public comment, Nichols mentioned a problem with an unauthorized ATV trail contractor taking gravel from a county pit, and that will be looked into.

Isaacson noted Forestry people have been busy plowing for the Highway Department, and when they do that, their pay comes from the Highway budget.

DNR Forester Dan Mertz reported their staff has put in 2,245 hours for Marinette County during their current fiscal year, which is 67 percent of the time allocated, so there should be no problem meeting our commitment to the county by July.

Cole Couvillion of the DNR also provided input.

Brehm reported she had been with a DNR group doing a wildlife audit on the Menominee River the previous day. At Chalk Hills there is a protected Wood Turtle. Habitat is fenced to keep humans out and electrified to keep predators out. They saw some swans, eagles and other birds. Deer numbers are down about 5 percent in Marinette County. The deer take in the county was down because of extreme cold on opening weekend, she said. She is hopeful the extreme cold this winter will kill off some insect pests and other invasive species, and may even halt the spread of chronic wasting disease in the deer herd.

Final item on the agenda called for a tour of properties in the towns of Stephenson and Silver Cliff for a land trade that had been requested by a real estate broker. Partly because of the extreme cold, partly because Supervisor Russ Bousley was absent, and partly because they felt it unlikely they would approve the trade in any case, the committee decided not to go on the tour. They took no formal action except for the delay, since the item was not on the agenda for action.

In the land trade offer proposed, Marinette County would acquire 31 acres of property off Wolf Lane in the Town of Silver Cliff with 1,000 feet of frontage on the Peshtigo River in exchange for 160 acres of County Forest off County W in the Town of Stephenson. The idea was explained to the committee at its December meeting by Robert Brumm of Marinette, speaking on behalf of John Bushman, of Bushman’s Riverside Ranch, who wants to expand the potato farm operations. The county property Bushman hopes to acquire lies on Parkway Road near but not adjacent to the Bushman property. Bousley, at the December meeting, had suggested they should view both properties before deciding one way or the other.

In discussion prior to this month’s decision to forego the tour, Supervisor Ken Mattison said he had some concerns about even considering the trade, one being that if it went through the county would be cutting off two roads into prime logging territory. He added the county already owns Peshtigo River access near the Silver Cliff property and really doesn’t need more there.

He felt the town might also oppose putting more of their taxable property into county ownership, and Vilas said if the towns are opposed, we don’t do it.

Nichols felt there are plenty of places the potato ranch could rent land to expand within 20 miles of their main operation.

Mans also did not like the proposed trade, and doubted the state would approve it in any case, because any time land is released from the Forest Crop program it must be for a trade that is an advantage to the county. Vilas declared even without the state law, We don’t want the county to be on the losing end of any land trade deal. The issue will be on the agenda as an action item next month, but there apparently will not be a tour planned.


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