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Timber backlog hits Cass County

Timber backlog finally hit Cass County in October when the county sold only five of 17 sites offered for logging at the monthly auction.

The price paid for aspen dropped to $15.91 per cord for the first time since the early 1990s, according to Land Commissioner Joshua Stevenson.

While the county appraises its timber at $15 to $17 per cord, the average price paid has been running about $28 per cord. Until now, 99 percent of the acreages Cass put up for timber auction have sold.

During the recession, several Minnesota wood processing plants closed, but enough remained open to keep wood moving. The key recent change, however, was the permanent loss of the plant at Sauk Rapids follow the fire last spring.

Stevenson told the county board Nov. 6 he expects slow timber sales to continue through this winter. Having Cass County timber certified as a sustainable forest makes its wood more marketable, but does not increase the price the county can expect, he said.

With the economic changes and shifts wood processors are making to ensure marketability of their products, Stevenson said mills are changing their processes and timber product needs. For this reason, he is in the process of taking county forestry staff to visit and observe operations at the nearest remaining large wood processing plants.

Those are Norboard at Bemidji and Sappi Fine Paper Mill in Cloquet. Stevenson also plans to schedule tours for the county board and legislative delegation.

To maintain the county’s forests as sustainable, Stevenson obtained board approval to update the county’s forest inventory for $6,800. ProWest and Associates of Walker, who drafted the most recent inventory in 2008, will provide the update.

The county sold eight land parcels on an Oct. 27 auction, netting $434,100. Other parcels offered on that sale, which did not sell will be available for purchase over the counter at the land department building in Backus during normal business hours. The majority of land the county sells is surrounded by private land, Stevenson said.

NorthFork Excavating was the lowest of four bidders to win a contract to remove garbage and a cabin from county land in Moose Lake Township. The former metal frame cabin is currently a pile of rubble.

Outdoor Creations and Renovation was the lowest of three bidders at $22/yard to haul material (taconite tailings) to repair a section of Thunder Lake Snowmobile Trail in Thunder Lake Township. Trail maintenance funds will pay for the project.