Cass County Board: Logging prices expected to stay high this year

BACKUS--Land Commissioner Kirk Titus said he expects prices loggers pay the county to cut timber on county owned and managed land will stay higher in 2017.

BACKUS-Land Commissioner Kirk Titus said he expects prices loggers pay the county to cut timber on county owned and managed land will stay higher in 2017.

He presented his annual report to the county board Tuesday.

Historically, Cass County has sold more aspen tree tracts for cutting than any other tree species. This mainly was because the county had many mature and over mature aspen stands.

Now, the county has caught up with the normal rotation for harvesting mature aspens, so has increased sales for red oak as a partial offset to a more normal aspen volume.

There also was an abnormal price peak for all tree species in 2005 when aspen hit about $70 per cord. That was followed by a substantial dip by 2007 to under $30 per cord. Prices stayed between $20 and $30 through 2015.


Average aspen prices paid in 2016 ran $39.52 per cord.

There was a similar rise for red oak. The average per cord loggers paid increased from $28.68 in 2014 to $32.22 in 2015 to $48.57 in 2016.

Birch was $9 higher than 2014. Maple rose $7. Basswood was up $9. Burr Oak was up $7.

Timber sales overall in 2016 brought $2,064,757.07 to operate the county's forest, recreation and land management programs. Another $47,274.42 was earned from the sale of 2016 storm downed trees on county land.

Because timber is offered as a two-year sale, allowing loggers two years to cut it, some final payments for the sales will be made in 2017 on 2016 sales.

Overall, Cass County Land Department generated $4,235,755 in revenue in 2016. That is up from $3,735.780 in 2015 and $3,494,308 in 2014.

The total includes a Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage $948,650 grant to enable the county to purchase additional land.

Cass has mainly been purchasing former Potlatch timber land adjacent to existing county land and tracts which will give the county access to currently land locked county property.


Cass bought 280 acres of land with townships' consent with a $442,000 Outdoor Heritage grant in 2016. It gives access to 560 acres of existing public land and protects 540 feet of lakeshore habitat.

Cass allows public access for hunting, fishing and recreational uses on most of its land.

The land department's expenses ran $3,013,429 in 2016.

In addition to operating the department and managing forest regeneration, the land department pays a portion of its money to keep forest access roads and recreational trails open. It shares a portion with townships, cities and schools where logging and land sales generated revenue and it pays a portion to the county general fund.

The department also has a wildlife management program.

Cass County has a conservation trust fund created from proceeds the county generated by selling former state leased lots between 1998 and 2000. The county is required to maintain the $4,124,700 original fund, but may spend interest the fund generates. That runs about $100,000 a year.

Cass has spent $1,682,890.13 from trust fund interest earnings since 2001 for natural resource projects.

The state gave Cass $252,860 in recreational trail state aid grants in 2016. The county spent $260,854 on snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle and cross country ski trails.

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