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Forestry approves bid to replant pine in county forest

The trees are used for utility poles, have a high market value when harvested

Superior Forestry Service out of Russellville, Arkansas was the only bidder for a replanting project for a 43-acre red pine plantation in the county forest.

County forest administrator Jake Walcisak noted the company works throughout North America and has a good reputation in the field. He said nationally there are only a handful of companies who do this sort of work and with migrant labor crews start work in the early spring in Florida and work their way north into Canada. The total bid price is $4,109.78 which comes out to $97.46 per acre or about 11 cents for every tree to be planted.

The county directly purchased the tree saplings for 26 cents each. In addition, there was bulldozer work beforehand and herbicide spraying. Walcisak reminded committee members the county had received a $19,600 grant two years ago to cover the costs and that with the increase of prices due to inflation since then, they will be about $1,800 over budget. The remainder will come from the forest regeneration account dollars. Walcisak said another contractor had asked about the project and while they did not submit a formal bid, was estimating needing to charge about $1 per tree.

The planting will take place in late April or early May and Walcisak projected it would only take a day or two for the crew to get it done. Committee members voted to approve giving the contract to Superior Forestry Service.

In other business, committee members:

_ Discussed a request from a landowner adjacent to county forest for the county to purchase her family’s 89-acre parcel. The property adjoins the county on three sides and is within the county’s designated acquisition boundary areas which were set up as potential goals to square off the borders of the county forest over time. The Ice Age Trail runs through the property and it is currently part of the open Managed Forest Land program paying $182 in local property taxes each year. Walcisak estimated about 15 acres of mixed hardwoods would be able to be harvested right away with another potential harvest in 20 years. The county has close to $500,000 in its land acquisition account and would be able to tap into state of Wisconsin’s Knowles Nelson funds to be reimbursed for half the purchase price.

“Why wouldn’t we consider this?” Knoll asked.

“We are buying an annuity for our county and future generations,” he said, noting the potential for future revenue from the land. While not on the agenda for formal action, Walcisak raised the issue during his regular report noting he wanted to gauge the committee’s interest before he spent a lot of time doing work on it. Committee members directed Walcisak to continue to talk with the owner and bring it back for action at their February meeting.

_ Received word that the plans for the dam grant applications were submitted to the state so that they were received well before the deadline. In addition, Ayres Associates informed the county that it would be submitting the grant application for the Chelsea Dam project at no cost to the county. During the last grant cycle, the county missed funding for local projects due to the grant application materials not being turned in properly by the engineers. Walcisak assured committee members the full grant request would be submitted well before the March 4 deadline. He also noted that the last budget increased the amount of the dam grants from $3.9 million to $10 million. “The outlook is good,” he said.

_ Discussed the status of carbon credit programs and the potential for revenue they would bring to the county. The county is estimated to have about 315,000 tons of carbon credit available to be sold as part of the market-based carbon credit program. While this is too small for some vendors, the county was approached by a carbon developer about doing a project on the county. Under these schemes, the county forest carbon credits are purchased by companies and used to offset their pollution elsewhere. Bub noted that this does not actually reduce any pollution since the pollution is still going on. “They are not adding any more carbon resources,” he said. He said he worried that larger companies would secure carbon credits and continue polluting while midsize companies that couldn’t afford the market price of carbon credits would be either forced to close or make expensivee emission reduction efforts.

“We are enabling polluters to keep polluting,” Bub said.

Knoll raised concern that the contracts could give away the county’s future potential to manage the forest the way they see fit.

Walcisak said they currently only harvest 80% of what is grown each year and have no plan to change the certified forestry practices they use. He noted that three counties have completed contracts for carbon credit programs and six are in the process and there are millions of acres enrolled in it nationwide. “The only assurance you have is the money you get paid up front,” he said.