Area paper mills continue to have an oversupply of timber after Verso Paper in Sartell closed following a catastrophic fire last summer.
At the Nov. 6 board meeting, Land Commissioner Josh Stevenson said the downturn in timber sales and prices continued at the Oct. 25 timber auction. Out of 17 tracts offered, only five sold. The average per cord price was $15.91, compared to $27 to $28 per cord earlier this year. Nevertheless, Stevenson said the price Cass County is getting is consistent with neighboring counties.
“Markets are saturated,” Stevenson stated. “The [timber] yard on the south end of Bemidji is filled, and until that bubble [of timber] makes its way through, we can expect this at sales throughout the winter.”
Stevenson and his staff recently toured the Norboard Mill in Bemidji and Sappi Fine Paper in Cloquet, which take the majority of Cass County timber from permit-holders. The tour gave them a better idea of what sort of timber the mills want or don’t want, based on their new specifications for merchantable wood products. The Land Department then will know what kinds of timber they can expect will be left on a tract, after it is logged.
Commissioners were interested in visiting the two mills. Stevenson will arrange a tour of Norboard this fall and Sappi Paper next spring.
The Oct. 27 sale of tax-forfeit parcels went better than expected, with eight selling for a total of $434,100. Of that amount, $78,000 came from two fee-owned sales and will be used to reimburse the Forest Development Account for previous land purchases through LCCMR. The remaining $356,000 will go to the 2013 tax forfeit settlement.
Stevenson stressed that all parcels offered at auction approved for sale by their respective townships. They were non-conservation tracts that didn’t fit with the Land Department’s timber management plan. Most are inaccessible to the public because they are surrounded by private property. That created spirited bidding for one parcel by adjacent landowners.
The board authorized the Land Department to contract with ProWest and Associates to update the 10-year work plan contained in the department’s Forest Resource Management Plan, which was created from 2008 forest inventory data, for not more than $6,800.
Land Department staffers felt it was time to re-run an analysis of the plan to better understand what Cass has in its timber inventory. This will not involve field work but will strictly be an analysis of the forest inventory data, minus any timber sales or other actions that have taken place since 2008.