Six out of 75 loggers with contracts for timber harvest on Beltrami County land have been granted extensions because of difficult forest conditions this year.
The extensions carry a penalty of 10 percent, a stipulation the loggers agree to in their typical two-year cutting contracts. However, Scott Dane, executive director of the Associated Contract Loggers & Truckers, requested, during the regular County Board meeting Tuesday, revision of the contracts to allow extensions with no financial penalties.
Richard Moore, director of Natural resource Management for Beltrami County, with the backing of County Administrator Tony Murphy, recommended the County Board continue to charge the additional 10 percent. However, he also recommended the revision of the policy, effective for the August timber sale auction, that the county modify the policy to charge the additional 10 percent payment on only the uncut volume of timber. For example, if the logger could only manage to get half the timber in the contract cut, the penalty would only be assessed on the remaining 50 percent of the standing timber.
The Beltrami County commissioners voted unanimously to retain the 10 percent extension penalty, but make the recommended partial timber stand revision as recommended for future contracts.
At issue was unusually heavy snowfall during the 2010-2011 winter resulting in unfrozen ground and some loggers' equipment becoming mired. Dane said Koochiching, Itasca and St. Louis counties decided to waive penalties because the forest conditions were beyond the loggers' control.
"These were extenuating circumstances," he said.
He said retaining the 10 percent penalty was counterproductive to supporting the timber industry and keeping the forests healthy.
Moore said the Minnesota Counties Sustainable Forest Cooperative, which includes the counties of Beltrami, Clearwater, Crow Wing and Carlton, all adhere to the standard contracts.
"I'm a firm believer in contracts," said Moore.
Contracts protect the county and the loggers and ensure all are treated equally.
"A lot of logging contractors got out there and got the job done," he said.
Commissioner Jack Frost also endorsed maintaining the language of the contracts.
"Knowing full well the ramifications of the contract when they agree to it, a deal's a deal," he said.
Commissioner Jim Lucachick also agreed.
"It's like farming - you roll the dice," he said. "We're all big people, and we all know the risks in doing business."
Dane expressed disappointment with the County Board vote.