County approves timber sales, expresses need to ensure future markets
Thanks to competitive bids on all the sales, timber on the Taylor County forest is still going at well above the minimum value.
At the June 4 Taylor County Forestry Committee, committee members reviewed the bids received for three timber sales totaling 248 acres. According to Forest Administrator Jake Walcisak, the county received at least two bids for each of the projects. This is well above the state average for sales.
He explained that the sold rate for sales this year statewide is 73%, which is significantly better than last year’s rate of 50%.
“There is definitely an uptick in the sold rate across the northern part of the state,” Walcisak said.
Market conditions are also impacting the price of the sales. Before putting the timber sales out on bid, county personnel had adjusted the minimum prices to reflect generally depressed market conditions for the timber products. Walcisak also explained that in a downturn market, it is common to see companies submit bids at or near the minimum bid amount hoping that prices rebound over the course of the contract time. “It is a good business decision,” Walcisak said.
This resulted in a wide range of bids received for the county sales. The largest range was seen with sale 1-21 covering 84 acres.
Four companies bid on that sale with the prices ranging from a low bid of $59,435 from Russ Thums Construction to a high bid of $110,230 from Wilson Forestry of Athens. Other bidders were Northwest Hardwoods with a bid of $92,545 and Central Wisconsin Lumber with a bid of $92,388.95. The minimum bid for the sale was set at $48,362.
Walcisak explained that the first sale has very good quality timber and is the most desirable because it is summer access. Walcisak said he expects the loggers will begin working on that site within the next few weeks and have it done this summer versus previous sales that have less desirable timber or not as good access.
The second sale covered 116 acres and had three bidders with Kafka Forestry the high bidder at $90,959.25. Other bidders were Wilson Forestry at $83,867.50 and Czarnezki Forest Products at $67,435.50. The minimum bid was set at $51,184.50. This is also a summer sale with good quality timber.
Walcisak supported awarding the bid to Kafka, noting that the company has not worked with the county for about 15 years and said that the issues raised then have been resolved. “I don’t see any reason not to award it to them,” he said.
Wilson Forestry was again the high bidder on the third sale with a price of $26,240 compared to the $24,515 bid price of Czarnezki Forest Products. The minimum bid price set for the parcel was $24,515. Walcisak said this is a winter access sale covering 48 acres.
Walcisak noted that both he and assistant administrator Jordan Lutz had been skeptical about if this timber sale would attract any bidders. He noted the project is a winter sale. “Winter jobs are a dime a dozen,” he said.
As far as pricing, Walcisak said they were stable and comparable with what was seen in 2020 with slight increases and decreases on specific species. The county’s highest amount of timber is for mixed hardwood pulp, which Walcisak noted is about $2 less per ton lower than it was in 2019.
Committee member Gene Knoll noted that part of the sales this spring were on lands the county recently purchased. Walcisak agreed noting the county had purchased the land for $60,000 and had gotten a $30,000 stewardship grant back from the state and that the portion of the timber sale on the parcel was $20,000.
“It looks like a win,” Knoll said, noting the county had almost gotten its full price back and opened the land up for recreation and other use at the same time.
Committee member Gary Beadles noted the sales for that parcel was a selective cut, Walcisak agreed saying that in 15 to 20 years the county will be back in that stand cutting again.
Walcisak said that they make a point of only bringing potential land purchases to the committee that the department personnel think would be a good value for the county. Walcisak noted that most of the timber will end up at PCA in Tomahawk.
In other business, committee members received an update on efforts being made to reopen the Verso mill in Wisconsin Rapids under new ownership.
The Wisconsin Counties Forest Association has set up a cooperative that is seeking financing to purchase and reopen the mill. Walcisak said he was unsure about how much Taylor County would be involved, he said he was concerned that if the county bought in and provided support if it could be viewed as a conflict since they make deliveries to other mills.
“I want to see this succeed, but I don’t know to what point the county should be considering financial contributions,” Walcisak. Walcisak shared information with the committee about AB 367 which will authorize a $50 million state loan package for the purchase and reopening of the mill. He noted it was supposed to be addressed during the special session called by Gov. Tony Evers but that session was a nonstarter. Walcisak questioned the idea of bailing out private industry and if it was something the state should be doing.
Committee member Mike Bub said they should support efforts to get the mill reopened. He said that unlike the Foxconn deal which has failed to deliver on any promises, the paper mill is a homegrown state industry.
“If we have a solid lumber industry it is good for our state,” Bub said.
Committee chairman Chuck Zenner agreed saying logging has economic impacts far beyond just the timber. “It is a snowball effect,” he said.
Committee members called on Walcisak to have a resolution for the county to pass to show support for the legislation. Bub also said residents should be encouraged to call Rep. James Edming and Sen. Jerry Petrowski and urge them to support it.
Knoll questioned why Verso closed the mill questioning if they were trying to keep dinosaurs alive.
Walcisak said that government controlled papermaking in China is impacting the market in the United States with Chinese companies undercutting U.S. firms.
In the end though, Walcisak said that if there isn’t a market there would be no place to sell the wood products and without a market they could not manage the timber in the forest.