While revenue from timber sales has declined, Cass County Land Department has increased its revenues by selling more land.
This does not mean the county owns less land, however. A $557,000 grant in 2011 and another $619,633 grant in 2012 from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage fund created by the three-eighths cent sales tax has enabled the county to more than replace land sold those years.
The county receipts from land sales were $37,900 in 2010, $35,800 in 2011 and $750,175 in 2012. The county bought 785.36 acres in 2011 and 2012 and sold in those years 583.4 acres.
Additional land is available for sale at the land department office in Backus. There will be a land auction this summer as well.
As regional timber processing plants have closed and loggers are having a harder time marketing logs they cut, Cass County has seen the receipts from timber sold from county land decline from $1,893,591 in 2010 to $1,785,382 in 2011 and to $1,501,604 in 2012.
While the vast majority of land department revenue comes from timber and land sales, the department also received in addition to the Heritage grant, a small amount for grant-in-aid snowmobile trails maintenance, payments in lieu of taxes, gasoline taxes and easements.
In addition to funding personnel to manage the county’s lands and to pay snowmobile and ski clubs to maintain trails, the land department’s largest expense is the 34 percent of revenue distributed to local units of government.
The land department sold timber from 98 tracts of land in 2012, involving 3,845.2 acres. Loggers paid about $17,500 per tract.
Today’s average price per cord of aspen sold is running about in line with the historic average of $25 per cord since 1995, but a brief price spike ran from 2004 to 2006 when it hit a peak of over $70 per cord in 2005.
Land Commissioner Joshua Stevenson told the county board he sees regenerating wood on county land shifting more toward mixed hardwoods from a predominance of aspen. He said price paid for hardwoods has been running on a par or above that paid for aspen.
Cass County’s timber has been certified sustainably managed through an annual audit by the SmartWood program of the Forest Stewardship Council since 2001.