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County official gives timber auction presentation to board

The Park Rapids School Board meeting Tuesday was filled with visitors as a number of students were recognized for recent achievements.

The main informational presentation was by Mark "Chip" Lohmeier of the Hubbard County Natural Resource Management Department who explained the process of timber auctions on tax forfeited land in the school district.

The Park Rapids Area High School state speech participants introduced themselves to the board. Coach Deb Davis called it a "great season" and six individuals competed last week at the state speech tournament.

State speech participants introduced at Tuesday's meeting were: Katelynn Warmbold (Extemporaneous Speaking), Myah Schultz (Duo), Madison Malzahn (Dramatic Interpretation), Emily Kjenaas (Storytelling), Amber Schroeder (Great Speeches).

Madison Malzahn performed for the board her Serious Dramatic Interpretation called "The King of Hearts." She first explained this speech category is where they take a play that's generally serious in nature and cut it down to a 10 minute performance.

The top 24 from each category perform at state and Malzahn received a third place medal in Serious Dramatic Interpretation. Kjenaas also placed third in her category Storytelling, while Schroeder earned seventh place in Great Speeches.

Tax forfeited land presentation

Chip Lohmeier, Land Commissioner for Natural Resource Management, gave his presentation to the board on tax forfeited land and timber auctions. Hubbard County manages 139,000 acres of tax forfeited land, and with 100,000 acres of state land in the county, about 38 percent of total acreage in the county is public land. Lohmeier said this 38 percent falls about in the middle compared to neighboring counties.

County forests originated during the 1930s during the Great Depression. During this era, soils were depleted and exhausted from the workings of the plow. Farms and forests were abandoned, homesteads failed, and wildfires took their toll on the land. Thousands of acres of land became tax delinquent as owners could not or would not pay their taxes.

Tax forfeited deeds belong to the state and are managed by the county. Department responsibilities include: sustainable forest management, provide public recreational opportunities, and real estate management.

Four timber auctions are conducted annually in January, April, July and October. The county issues 60 to 80 timber permits annually totalling approximately 45,000 to 65,000 cords and covering roughly 3,000 acres. These average nearly $2 million in timber sales annually with a portion of the funds from those sales go to the school district.

Park Rapids Area Schools District 309 received over $301,000 from the county this year as a result of the timber sales. Lohmeier explained currently the county is on an accelerated forest management program and, as he said, there is a lot of old wood in the forest and they are somewhat behind on timber auctions.

Superintendent Lance Bagstad asked Lohmeier about what is the current trend with timber harvesting and sales. Lohmeier indicated the checks to the school district are larger than in the past and he expects to see that trend continue for the next seven to eight years.

Fifteen counties in northern Minnesota manage nearly $2.8 million acres of tax forfeited land and over the last 10 years these counties have harvested an average of 700,000 cords of timber annually.

Lohmeier explained to ensure sustainability in Hubbard County his department promotes natural regeneration along with artificial regeneration efforts when needed. These include hand planting over 250,000 seedlings of Red Pine, Jack Pine and White Spruce each year.

In 2016, according to the Natural Resource Management financial statement, the county had $2.2 million in revenue from timber sales, leases, easements, and land sales. Expenses totaled $708,000 which led to a 2016 apportionment of over $1.5 million.

Award winners

Sam Eystad and Lydia Kantonen were recognized as this year's Triple A recipients from Park Rapids Area High School. Eystad was also the Sub-Section 29 recipient. Park Rapids juniors Matt Benson and Jayden McCollumn were this year's Park Rapids Excel recipients.

The students will all be recognized at the upcoming school awards banquet with additional information on the award winners provided in the Enterprise.

New hires

The board on Tuesday approved new hires Anna Sanchez, elementary school teacher; Jordan Ackerman, elementary school teacher; Joelle Langworth, high school guidance counselor; Richard McCarthy, payroll technician. The board also rescinded previously approved new hire Connor Sullivan, middle school special education teacher.

Resignations

The board accepted the resignations of Bryan Hirt, junior high football coach; Carly Helfrich, assistant swim coach; and Scott Schafer, Boys C-squad basketball coach.

Donations

Donations to the district accepted and appreciated include $5 gift card with snack basket for each bus driver from an anonymous donor; one set of Lynx ladies golf clubs with bag and extra clubs to the Park Rapids Area Schools Golf Club.

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