County Forestry Director Kleinschmidt calls it a career
In the wake of nearly three decades of service in various capacities with the Lincoln County Forestry, Land and Parks Department, Director Kevin Kleinschmidt has called it a career; retiring after 29 years of service, as of Friday, April 10.
A Merrill native and Class of 1981 graduate of Merrill High School, Keinschmidt went on to attend UW-Stevens Point; graduating in December of 1985 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forestry, with minors in Soil Science and Resource Management.
Kevin’s professional roots in Lincoln County date back to the summer of 1984, where as a summer employee and attending UWSP; he assisted with taking care of county parks, campgrounds and other recreational facilities. Kleinschmidt continued summer employment through the summer of 1985. Following graduation from college, Kevin served as a member of the Wisconsin Conservation Corps (WCC) as a crew leader in Lincoln County. working for the Forestry Department, doing various conservation related projects. In 1987, Kleinschmid accepted a position in Florence County as an Assistant Forest Administrator.
“In 1991, a forester position was created here in Lincoln County and I was fortunate to be hired in that capacity, which gave me the opportunity to come back to my hometown,” Kleinschmidt explains.
“In 1993, I was promoted to Assistant Forest Administrator and held that position until 2007 when I was hired as Lincoln County Forest Administrator.”
When asked of his interest in a rather unique career field, Kleinschmidt cites his passion for the outdoors, among other motivators.
“I’ve always enjoyed being in the outdoors and had an interest in the science and economics behind timber management as well as the logistics of public land management.,” he explains.
“When I became involved with county-level forestry, I saw the diversity of programs that you become involved with as a county forester. There is the challenge of balancing the many different interests and requests that the public puts on our property today, along with the long- range planning that needs to take place in order to protect our resources, to ensure that future generations will have the same benefits and opportunities that we currently enjoy. Here in Lincoln County, we manage the timber and oversee many other programs on a public land base of over 100,000 acres, maintain our county parks, campgrounds and other recreational facilities, coordinate the county snowmobile and ATV program, and sell tax delinquent properties, in addition to dealing with other county land related issues. This is a very large and fast- paced program, and the challenges behind running an operation of this size is what interested me in serving our forestry department.”
In terms of what he deems the Lincoln County Forestry Department’s greatest accomplishment in his tenure, Kevin cites the county’s timber sale program as well as organizing and establishing the county’s ATV and snowmobile trail systems.
“In the 13 years that I served as Forest Administrator, we generated over $23 million in revenue for the county on the timber sale program that we conduct on our county forest,” Kleinschmidt adds.
“While at the same time, sustainably managing this resource, so we will never run out of timber to harvest and the county will always receive a financial benefit from the property that it owns. The revenue that the county receives from our timber sale program funds the operational costs of our county forestry dept off the tax levy, and it also helps to fund other county programs which provides for tax relief for our residents. I see the ability to have been able to play a role in the success of our community through the management of our county forestry program as being a major accomplishment.
“On the recreational end, a long range goal of our snowmobile community had been to develop a direct snowmobile trail from Merrill to Tomahawk. This project required cooperation from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR,) Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT), Army Corps of Engineers, the Canadian National Railroad and Lincoln County Highway Department, as well as involving four local snowmobile clubs. I was involved with this project from the early planning stages through the 20 years that it took to complete this project and we were able to develop it entirely with grant funding.
“Another achievement was the expansion of our Harrison Hills summer ATV trail system up in the Pine Lake area. This trail took several years of planning to negotiate some very challenging terrain, addressing many wetland issues and obtaining the necessary permits required for trail development. This trail has now been completed and has been open for several years. It provides for a vital connection to Langlade and Oneida County’s trail system and has become a tremendous asset to our ATV trail system. “
As Kevin steps away from his post to enjoy his retirement, he is quick to credit the many stakeholders involved in the many accomplishments by the forestry department over the years.
“Starting out as a summer employee and working my way up to ending my career as the head of this department has given me an in-depth knowledge of our county forest land base and the programs that we manage.,” he explains.
“The success we have found in this department has been the result of a great team effort. I feel fortunate to have been able to work with so many dedicated county employees and external partners. I have always had great forestry committee members who have been genuinely interested in doing what’s best for our forest. Our county board has supported our programs and seen the benefits that this public land base has in our community.
“It can be hard to leave something that has been such a big part of your life for so many years, but I have done what I felt was best to develop and improve our programs. Now it’s time for someone new to come in with fresh ideas and see if they can build on what we have accomplished and make it even better.”