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Forestry department eyes Trail Farm property for forest addition

Proposal presented as an opportunity, committee members took no action

Taylor County is eyeing the possibility of purchasing more land for the county forest.

The land in question is the former 230acre Trail Farm property owned by the Meyer family. It is surrounded by county forest and has an extensive road network already in place.

County forest administrator Jake Walcisak alerted members of the county’s forestry committee about the availability of the land at Friday’s committee meeting.

According to Walcisak, the property has been under open Managed Forest Land (MFL) law which reduces taxes in exchange for having it open to some recreational uses. The asking price for the parcel is $499,000. Walcisak said if the county were to consider purchasing the property it would be at a much lower price based on what they felt was the fair market value.

While the property has a higher price, Walcisak noted the land was managed well with multiple future cutting potential into the future. Forestry staff estimated there is about $200,000 worth of immediately harvestable timber on the property as well as a large amount of grouse habitat and recreational trail networks.

According to Walcisak, the impact to the tax base from taking county ownership of it would be $387 per year due to the decreased tax rate for MFL property.

“It is a big property and it is a lot of money,” Walcisak said, noting he was not asking the committee to make a recommendation at the meeting, but to keep it in consideration for the future.

Committee chairman Chuck Zenner noted its value not just for timber, but for recreational use. Walcisak noted the family has always been good neighbors with the county forest and they had never expected the parcel to come up for sale.

“I think it is worth a good hard look,” said committee member Mike Bub. He said he did not think the tax and revenue issues facing counties were going to go away anytime soon and chances to gain productive revenue-generating forest land should be considered.

A portion of every logging project goes into a land acquisition fund for the potential purchase of additional land for the county forest. By ordinance the county’s land purchase fund is capped at $500,000 and at the end of 2020 will have a balance of $407,000. In addition, the county can tap into Knowles Nelson Stewardship funds through the state to cover up to 50% of the purchase cost of public lands. Any potential land purchase would have to be approved by the committee and then by the full county board.

In other business, committee members:

_ Approved putting out for bid the rehabilitation of Pine Line Bridge numbers four and five located in the town of Chelsea. The work is funded by state snowmobile and ATV trail maintenance money and the work will be done after the trail closes for the snowmobile season in spring and before it opens again next winter. These are the final 2 bridges that require rehabilitation in the Taylor County portion of the trail.

_ Approved putting out for bid four timber sales totaling 289 acres and having a combined minimum bid of $179,306.50. Walcisak noted Taylor County is sitting OK as of right now given its centralized location as far as crews being able to find mills to take logs. This is becoming a challenge around the state with the closure of the Verso mill in Wisconsin Rapids. “We are near the tipping point,” Walcisak said. He noted some counties have begun extending contracts for a fourth or even fifth year. Walcisak said he felt confident with the county being able to secure bids for at least three of the four parcels given the type of forest crop on them and the access.

_ Approved closing out sale number 567 with a contractor total of $39,484.70. Assistant forestry administrator Jordan Lutz noted this was a 51% overrun in value largely due to increased optimization by the logger. The parcel’s topography was steep which results in more land area for timber harvest than flatter terrain.