By Sarah Smith, Forum Communications
PARK RAPIDS – Under a more aggressive timber harvesting policy, Hubbard County will hold the first of four auctions Jan. 7.
The county has traditionally held only three timber auctions per year for the past couple decades.
Land Commissioner Mark Lohmeier told the board this is a concerted effort to clear out the county’s geriatric stands of aspen trees, many more than 80 years old.
The county plants new groves of trees every spring. Next month 1,118.2 aces will be auctioned off.
“The market right now is extremely soft,” Lohmeier told the board. “Mills have changed their pricing policy.”
He said the lumber mills no longer reimburse loggers for long-distance travel.
Commissioners worried the county may soon have timber sales that no one will bid on.
“Should we set the base prices lower?” commissioner Cal Johannsen asked.
Price and unsold timber hasn’t been the case so far, Lohmeier said.
Commissioner Lyle Robinson questioned, “whether we’re putting too much on the market.”
Lohmeier said local reaction time to market prices lags, so it’s always somewhat of an unknown how to price aspen and pine.
“We’re certainly going in the right direction, getting rid of the old aspen,” Robinson said.
But then he brought up a topic that commissioners have had a bundle of phone calls on – the road to nowhere.
Hunters came up to Hart Lake this fall to find a 2-mile road had been cut west of the lake, clearing much of the cover. They weren’t happy and let board members know.
“It goes 1.5 to 2 miles,” Lohmeier acknowledged. “We have a large amount of timber back there that’s gonna need to be harvested,” he added.
“Before we build roads like that the board needs to know,” Johannsen said. “We get blindsided” when the complaints come in about a project commissioners weren’t aware of.
“It forever changes the landscape,” Robinson complained. “It had to have cost us 45, 50 thousand bucks.”
“Forty-five thousand,” Lohmeier said.
Johannsen conceded that forest policy allows the land department “to build necessary roads,” but questioned the project.
“This thing is 100 feet wide,” Robinson noted. “The road itself is certainly more than a township road. All the other roads seem like trails. This is like a superhighway. It’s got ditches and everything.”
Robinson said he’d heard from townships wondering about the road.
Lohmeier said his department didn’t put gravel on it because it would have cost too much.
Robinson offered Lohmeier what he called “free advice” before the commissioner left office.
“If you come before the board twice a month, you need to tell us” about such projects, he said.
“It gets in the paper and people know about it.”
He said when the public is kept in the dark about projects such as this, “we’re looking stupid. It’s a reflection on all of us.”