June 13, 2013 | Vol. 111, No. 24

Tonka timber sale to benefit local projects

The Tonka Timber Sales Logging Project was contracted in September 2012 and the work commenced on two projects in Feb. 2013.

“Two different projects came from the original notice of intent in 2008,” United States Forest Service District Ranger Jason Anderson said. “These projects were the sort yard and the actual timber sale contract.”

The sort yard project is an area for upland log storage above the existing ramp and dock at Tonka. This contract was finished in late April. As that project was ending the timber sale contract began and continues now.

“There was some overlap in the projects and the cutting began as early as February,” Anderson stated. “These projects will impact the economics of the communities in this region indirectly by approximately $7 million.”

This indirect value comes from the dollars that circulate through the communities and through the region by hiring loggers, bringing them here. These workers buy groceries, buy gas and all of that has a compound effect on the local economy according to Anderson.

Timber sale receipts normally benefit the schools throughout the nation, but the USFS has implemented a new contracting authority to keep these receipts local.

“We are using a contracting authority that has been available to the forest service for a number of years and it will expire in September,” Anderson said. “This authority is called Stewardship contracting which allows receipts, instead of being sent back to treasury into a complex formula that gets redistributed out to all of the school districts in the nation, retained receipts will be kept here as a unit.”

According to Anderson, as the payment units are cut, harvested and then paid to the forest service, those receipts will go into a direct account with the forest service at a local level.

“We will be able to accomplish additional projects from those receipts,” Anderson stated. “Right now we have about $500,000 in thinning for habitat benefits and we have proposals crafted for this project.”

Anderson stated that community input suggested that deer habitat and fisheries passage were the most important issues that needed to be dealt with using these funds.

“We have chunked out as much work as we could locate for roughly half of these dollars being spent for each side of this concern,” he stated. “The habitat thinning will most likely take place over the summer and in the fall we will try to narrow down which fisheries passage projects we will target with the remaining funds.”

The USFS authorities concluded that the value of using the receipts from this project through stewardship contracting to be a useful and worthwhile trade because they can accomplish some very deliberate restoration enhancement activities that would otherwise go unfunded or marginally funded in the normal budget process.

“I believe this is a good fit right now and we are going to get a lot more work done in the future than we would have through regular budgeting,” Anderson stated. “This project was going to happen regardless, we just took advantage of a new authority that will let us keep those receipts locally and allow us to define what will happen locally.”

According to Anderson, the area will already receive $7 million in indirect benefit from the timber sale and another $1 million in potential habitat restoration effectiveness.

“Later this fall, we will see plans for the fisheries passage projects which consist of pipes under road systems that have an impasse for fish,” Anderson said. “We can either go in and remove them or correct them so that the fish can move up and down streams more accessibly. This will benefit the watershed and fisheries.”

Anderson stated the only problem they have seen up to now is the environmental impact on the landscape that has some organizations upset due to the amount of land that is affected.

“Our forest plan is very conservative,” Anderson stated. “It outlines that some places will have an impact environmentally, Tonka is no exception. The harvest will have an effect on the landscape but there will still be deer, there will still be fish, there will still be access, there will still be old growth stands and productive habitat and we will do, with the receipts, what we can to improve on what has been harvested in the past and in time we will see changes in population dynamics and how people access and use the landscape and we will see an increase in economic returns.”

This is just a natural part of actively managed landscape according to Anderson and he considers this a win-win situation for all parties involved.

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