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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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2013 Timber Harvest Near All-Time Record

Financially, 2013 was the second best year in Marinette County Forest history, Forest Administrator Pete Vilas informed his parent committee on Thursday, Feb. 6. Income from timber contract sales for 2013 was $2,653,841, just $11,000 short of the record year of 2010.

After expenses are covered and severance payments are made to towns which include county forest lands the surplus goes into county coffers to keep property taxes down for the entire county.

Vilas presented a revenue report dating back to 1991, when revenue was only $959,064. Timber contract revenue exceeded $2 million for the first time in 2002, and the last time it fell below that was 2007, when the market for forest products took a nosedive. Recovery was swift, and 2008 revenue was $2,629,017.

Revenues have been high in recent years, but they could have been higher. The county has been unable to harvest timber fast enough to keep up with growth. An additional forester was added to the department last year to set up even more timber sales, which should result in another jump in income.

Income for January of this year was $199,060, up slightly from January of 2013, when it was $159,214.

The committee took formal action to deny a land trade proposed by Robert Brumm on behalf of John Bushman of Bushman’s Riverside Ranch. By unanimous vote members confirmed a decision tentatively made at their January. Brumm had offered a trade through which the county could get some riverfront property in the Town of Silver Cliff in return for considerably more acres of county forest property in theTown of Stephenson that would be used for the Riverside Ranch potato growing operations.

The meeting began with a few fireworks, as representatives of Snowmobile and ATV clubs were on hand to discuss a Dec. 6 letter from Forest and Parks Administrator Pete Vilas that appears to at least partially end a partnership that has existed for decades in regard to construction and maintenance of recreational trails in the county, most of which are located on county forest lands.

The letter, addressed to all ATV and Snowmobile clubs, states, “Effective immediately, all trail work done and materials used, such as sand and gravel, on ATV and snowmobile trails located on Marinette County Forest lands must be purchased through a private contractor. Marinette County Forestry will no longer be providing sand or gravel from our pits for this type of use.”

However, the issue will come up for action at the next Forestry Committee meeting, which is to be held on Thursday, March 6.

Present for the meeting were committee members Bill Walker, Ken Mattison, Laurence Nichols and Russ Bousley, along with Vilas, Assistant Forester Marcus Isaacson, Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison, Highway Commissioner Ray Palonen, Assistant Parks Administrator Dave Marquardt, Administrative Assistant Kellie Hartman; Dan Mertz, Derek Nellis and Joe Tucker of the DNR, Tony Ziebart of Pemenee River Riders and Alan Walesh and Jim Orlowski of Iron Snowshoe.

Issue involves gravel crushed and stock piled for trail projects by a contractor the clubs hired in a gravel pit off Benson Lake Road that is managed by the Highway Department. The clubs did not have permission from the Highway Department, but believed they did have permission from the Forest and Parks administrator.

Club representatives say the cost to them was $13,000, and comments at the meeting indicated that gravel will be staying where it is and not be available for trail use. The clubs were advised to buy from the towns for future projects.



Corporation Counsel told them allowing the clubs to take the gravel was a violation of existing county policy, which the committee could change if they want to. However, state laws enter the picture as well, so there may be legal issues over selling to a private entity.

Palonen said the Highway Department has permits from the DNR for the pits it develops, “and whenever we crush we have to notify the DNR, so if a club goes in there and crushes and we don’t know it, we’re in violation.”

Bousley, who chairs the Highway Committee, said the policy is that the county only sells to towns, “and you were told that.” He also said there is some concern that the highway could run out of gravel for its needs in that area if too much goes out for other purposes. Hauling from elsewhere would add greatly to costs of projects nearby.

“No one’s looking to criminalize this,” Mattison told the club representatives, but repeated her advice to get their gravel through the towns.

She noted it was not an action on the agenda. One of the club representatives said they should expect it to come up at the annual Snowmobile Alliance meeting, and another indicated it may be taken up with the full County Board. The issue is to be on the agenda for the next committee meeting, which is slated for Thursday, March 6.

“The clubs and the county have always worked together,” Orlowski said after the meeting. He said the grants are a pass-through. “The county applies for grants from the state DNR’s trail funds - funded by snowmobile license fees - to build, improve and maintain trails in the county, most of which go through the county forest. On most grants the county gains administrative fees for acting as a conduit and provide oversight for the grant projects. The clubs handle the projects and submit invoices to the county for reimbursement from the grant proceeds.”

Vilas said the clubs can still get the gravel, but they’ll have to buy it through the towns and then include the gravel cost in their grant applications.

“Yes, we can add the cost of buying gravel,” Orlowski agreed, “but everything we add reduces the chance of our project being funded. The state looks at getting the best trail values for the money they allocate.

Discussion ended with a decision that the clubs should get together to discuss the gravel issue. Vilas said the county needs to come up with a policy that covers all entities.

Committee Chair Bill Walker ruled that as of now the clubs cannot take gravel out of the county pits, and instructed Vilas to put it on the agenda for the next committee meeting. He asked Palonen and Vilas to get together in the meantime to come up with some recommendations for that meeting.

In other business, the committee approved a bid from Superior Forestry to plant a total of 105,000 Jack Pines for the low bid price of $49.60 per 1,000.

There were two bidders for the tree planting contract. Vilas said both have worked for the county before, with excellent results.

Isaacson reported the Highway Department is purchasing two new trucks and Forestry is getting one. The Highway Department will fit out the Forestry truck with snow plowing equipment, and will lease it from them in winter. He noted there is a Highway truck located in the Amberg Forestry shop all winter, and if a Forestry person is needed to help with snow plowing he takes that truck.

Mertz reported the DNR has completed 73 percent of the time allocated for work on the Marinette County Forest during their current fiscal year. He introduced Tucker, who works from the Wausaukee DNR office and Nellis, who works from Peshtigo. Both started last May and do much work for private forestry and managed forest law contracts.


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