Ask an Official: Forestry Director discusses county timber sales
This week’s featured question was submitted for Lincoln County Forestry Land and Parks Director Kevin Kleinschmidt
The question reads:
“I’ve heard talk of funds from the county’s timber sales being used to help fund some employment positions within the county and other departments. Is this true? How do the timber sales work exactly and how are the funds used or spent? Thank you, Mr. Kleinschmidt.”
Answer as given by Kleinschmidt:
“The Lincoln County Forestry Dept. is run as a proprietary fund which means that our department does not operate on the tax levy, but instead, we are responsible for covering the expenses in our department from the revenue that is brought in through our timber sale program. The annual income from this program brings in around $2 million to the county each year. So far, through November, we have collected $2.6 million in revenue from the harvesting of timber on our county forest in 2018. Of this revenue, 20% is distributed to the general fund and is used to cover general county expenses that can include helping to pay for the cost of employees outside of the Forestry Dept.; 10% is divided among the towns in Lincoln County that have county forestland within their boundaries as a payment in lieu of taxes; and 70% goes to the Forestry Fund to cover the operational costs of the Forestry Department which includes the wages and fringe benefits of all employees in this department as well as the County Recreation Officer. At the end of the year, any unused budgeted funds and surplus revenues from the Forestry Fund is transferred to the County CIP (Capital Improvement Program) and is used to help fund various projects throughout the county such as the purchase of new vehicles and equipment, repairs or renovations that are needed on buildings or other county facilities and repairing or repaving county highways. Over the past three years, the unused portion of the Forestry Fund that has not been used in the Forestry Departments budget and has gone to CIP has been between $500,000 and $900,000 annually. This is in addition to the 20% revenue transferred to the general fund and 10% paid to towns.
“One final note is that sometimes residents think that the large amounts of revenue that the Forestry Department brings in through our timber sales program means that someday the county will run out of trees to harvest on our forest. This is not true.
“The Lincoln County Forestry Dept. strictly follows a guideline called an allowable cut which is a parameter that is used to identify the number of acres of timber that we are able to establish and sell in a given year, and still not overharvest more of this resource than we should be. By following our allowable cut guidelines, we are managing the timber on our county forest on a sustainable basis and will be able to continue to harvest trees from our forest perpetually. Harvesting stands of mature trees on our county forest provides for many benefits to our community that include generating much needed revenue for the county which helps to keep taxes down; supporting local jobs through the cutting, hauling and processing of timber into various wood products; keeping our timber resources healthy and actively growing; sequestering and storing atmospheric carbon to reduce greenhouse gases; enabling the county to maintain a land base for public recreational use; creating and maintaining critical habitat for wildlife; and maintaining diversity on the landscape. By following this plan, the Lincoln County Forestry Dept. will be able to manage, conserve and protect its natural resources on a sustainable basis and offer the same benefits and opportunities to future generations that we currently enjoy today. Thanks for the great question.”
Have a question or concern you would like to address? Simply send your question or concern to firstname.lastname@example.org along with an indication of which entity your question or concern pertains to. Current participants are the Merrill Police Department, Merrill Fire Department, Tomahawk Police Department, Merrill City Administrator Dave Johnson, Merrill Area Housing Authority Director Paul Russell, Lincoln County Clerk Chris Marlowe, Lincoln County Administrative Coordinator Jason Hake, Lincoln County Forestry Land and Parks Director Kevin Kleinschmidt, Local DNR Conservation Warden Curt Butler and Merrill Area Public Schools (MAPS) Superintendent Dr. John Sample. Please note: Those who submit to the ‘Ask an Official’ feature remain anonymous.