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Crow Wing County Board: Public mum on 'stand exam' plan

No one showed up to weigh in at a public hearing Tuesday on Crow Wing County's plan on acres under consideration for sale to logging companies. The "Stand Exam Plan," once called the "Harvest Plan," outlines the number of acres of tax-forfeited l...

No one showed up to weigh in at a public hearing Tuesday on Crow Wing County's plan on acres under consideration for sale to logging companies.

The "Stand Exam Plan," once called the "Harvest Plan," outlines the number of acres of tax-forfeited land that will be examined for their sale potential this year. "Stand exam" is a forestry term and involves the collection of data on the composition of a given forest.

"The acres are determined using forest inventory data," said Kirk Titus, land services supervisor. "We take that inventory data and stick it into a computer growth model and grow those acres over time. With that data, we can determine how many acres of each species we can harvest on an annual basis and still be sustainable."

Commissioner Paul Thiede moved to open the public hearing, and when no one approached the microphone, he asked Titus about the plan's name change.

"Are we trying to be politically correct in changing it to 'stand exam?'" Thiede asked. "I'm a little bit concerned that we're playing to the tree hugging community that thinks any cutting of trees is somehow disastrous to the global warming. I'm going to get myself in trouble if I keep talking."

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"You already did," responded Chairman Paul Koering.

Titus said although it was a change in language, it did not change the county's actions.

"This change was a result of some feedback that we received from the public during our forest planning process," Titus said. "The new language better defines that action that we're going to do."

That action, Titus said, is to look at acres for their potential for harvest by logging companies rather than "exactly what we were going to harvest."

"Some of them may be inaccessible, some of the acres may be on steep ground and inoperable," Titus said.

Thiede said he thought the change was an unnecessary overreach.

"I'm from the old school where words have meanings," Thiede said. "Lest I get myself further in the hole, I want to just remind those who heard my word of a 'tree hugger' that that is not a necessarily derogatory term. I grew up on a tree farm, so I don't want people to misconstrue my calling people 'tree huggers' as necessarily a bad connotation."

"That's alright, I'll spend the next two weeks trying to explain what you said here at the meeting to the public," Koering responded.

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County Administrator Tim Houle asked Titus to explain the county's role in stewardship as it relates to forestry practices.

Titus said the 105,000 acres of land managed by the county are certified by both the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, organizations that conduct independent third-party audits of the county's forestry practices.

"We're very proud of the work that we've done in land services on these forestlands," Titus said. "We've maintained a long-term view of our forests to grow, to continue, to be sustainable (and) to provide all of those benefits from timber to recreation, to clean water, to wildlife habitat."

Houle said trees are important to the "sense of place that is Crow Wing County."

"We all love the trees here," Houle said. "And yet, if we don't manage that resource, it would be like planting a crop of corn and letting it just sit in the field without harvest. If you're not going to manager the crop, then it's just going to sit there and rot on the stem eventually. We think we can do a better job of maximizing value of that public land, continuing the character of Crow Wing County (and) doing the right thing."

The county board approved the plan in February and scheduled the required public hearing at that time. A total of 1,410 acres are planned for examination this year. Of those acres, 590 are aspen, 400 are oak, 175 are northern hardwoods, 160 are red and white pine, 70 are birch, 10 are ash/other and 5 are jack pine. The total number of acres decreased slightly compared to last year but has remained relatively steady since 2012.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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