Hot timber market is good news for county
October 8, 2020
A hot timber market should bode well for Wahkiakum County's Current Expense Fund, county officials learned Tuesday.
The county relies on revenue from state managed trust timber land to support the fund, which supports most courthouse offices.
Last fall, representatives of the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which manages the trust timberland, estimated the county's 2020 revenue from timber sales would be $1.3 million. However, a hot timber market will boost those revenues to $1.4 million, said Padraic Callahan, DNR district manager.
The impact should be felt into 2021. The DNR originally estimated revenues for the coming year at $840,000, and the new estimate based on the hot market is $940,838, and, Callahan said, there is potential that the revenue could go up a couple hundred thousand dollars.
County officials would like to receive over $1 million per year, and amounts below that figure cause trouble for budgeting. Commissioner Dan Cothren recently consulted with Callahan to urge the foresters to find more timber to supplement the 2021 sale, which is named Irish Coffee Sorts.
Callahan reported Tuesday that the agency had advanced the sale date from January to December in an effort to capture the hot market, and that could boost sale revenue again to $1.1 million.
There are other possibilities, he added.
"There are some smaller tracts that haven't made sense to tie in with large sales," he said. "We can offer those as direct sales and boost that revenue a couple hundred thousand dollars."
"I appreciate you moving up the sales to capture the market," Cothren commented. "Those smaller tracts--we should do that. This covid thing has really set us back."
Cothren urged Callahan to put the small tracts up for sale as soon as possible; Callahan replied that he wanted to wait to see how the December sale performed.
"Those tracts are small; we've been holding them as a rainy day fund," Callahan said. "We don't have them on the sales plan; I intended to put them up in 5-6 years. Based on what Irish Coffee does in December, we would go from there."
Cothren pressed for making the sales as soon as possible. "With the way the market is now, I'd hate to lose money on them."
"I hear you loud and clear," Callahan replied. "We're taking steps, and I think were in a good position."
In other business, Commissioner Mike Backman asked Callahan if roads on DNR managed land would handle a response to wildfire.
The agency keeps its mainlines in good condition, Callahan replied, which would allow good fire response.
The state managed lands feature plantations of varied age, and that feature limits collection fuels and hinders wildfire spread, he said.