4/21/2018 11:10:00 AM Timber sales account for about half of land department revenue in 2017
MONICA LUNDQUIST Cass County Correspondent
BACKUS-Cass County Land Department received slightly less than half its revenue in 2017 from timber sales and extensions and spent around 20 percent of outgoing money on salaries and staff to manage county-owned and tax-forfeited land.
Land Commissioner Kirk Titus presented his annual report to the county board Tuesday.
Total revenue in 2017 was $4,248,648. Of that, $2,098,296 came from timber sales and extension fees for more time to cut timber.
Cass sold 57,326 cords of wood stumpage in 71 tracts on 2,985.6 acres at monthly sales to loggers in 2017.
Of that, 1,798 acres had aspen, 335 acres had red oak, 242 acres had red pine, 143 acres had northern hardwoods and 122 acres had paper birch. Smaller amounts of other tree species also were sold.
The county replanted 199 acres with seedlings in 2017, capped tree buds to prevent deer browsing on 149.5 acres and prepared 79 acres for planting this year.
Aspen prices have stabilized just under $40 per cord the last two years, but ran as high as $70 per cord in 2005 and as low as about $23 per cord from 2009 to 2013.
Individuals paid the county a total of $750 for 23 permits to cut firewood on logged sites.
Rainforest Alliance under the Forest Stewardship Council certified Cass-managed forest lands as sustainably managed since 2001, including after a 2017 annual audit.
Land Department salaries, payroll taxes and fringe benefits ran $547,407. Total expenses were $2,917,529.
Cass received money the last several years from the state Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and Legislature-approved allocations from the three-eighth cent state sales tax for environmental and outdoor recreation purposes.
Cass used these grants to purchase land giving road access to previously landlocked parcels the county owns or manages or expands the acreage area adjacent to existing county-managed land. Cass received $400,000 in 2017 from Lessard-Sams.
In 2017, Cass used Lessard-Sams grant money to purchase 40 acres of forest habitat land. A Lessard-Sams grant to Minnesota Deer Hunters Association enabled that organization to purchase another 1,958 acres in Byron and Poplar townships, which they then donated to Cass County. The land department seeks township approval before making any purchases. No levy dollars are used.
Cass sold 20 parcels containing 197 acres considered non-conservation land in 2017 for $378,872. The county has an annual sale, usually in June, and has parcels available year-round at the land office in Backus for sale over the counter. All land the county sells is offered at appraised value, but may be bid higher at auctions.
Cass graded 31 miles of forest access roads in 2017 and mowed and brushed 52 miles of forest roads and hiking trails. There are 114 miles of paved snowmobile/biking trails in Cass County, which the state or local taxing districts maintain. The county engages user clubs to maintain, mostly with state grant-in-aid dollars, 443 miles of natural ground snowmobile trails, 55 miles of all-terrain vehicle trails, 26 miles of cross country ski trails, 20 miles of hunter walking trails and 7 miles of horse riding trails.
In state forests inside the county, the DNR has 70 miles of ATV and off-highway motorcycle trails, 11 off-highway vehicle trails and 27 miles of horseback riding and mountain biking trails.
The state paid Cass County $207,768 grant-in-aid dollars in 2017. The county spent $244,069 on these trails.
The land department surveyed property lines over 14 miles in 2017 and posted "Welcome to Cass County" signs every 330 feet along the border of county-managed land. Survey costs ran $52,657.
Cass County's Fund 73 exists because the Legislature in 1998 to 2000 ordered counties where leased lots were located to sell those lots and retain the principal. Counties may use the interest earned "to improve natural resources."
The county's principal in Fund 73 is $4.1 million. The county earns about $100,000 interest annually. It spent $86,200 in 2017.
Cass County used the money to match local recreational trail extensions, send local school children to educational programs at Deep Portage Reserve, enable lake associations to conduct private sewer compliance inspections, replace the boardwalk at Deep Portage, and replace a fishing pier.
There currently is about $191,000 uncommitted in Fund 73.
Second publication rights after Brainerd Dispatch.