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Timber policy tested by aesthetics

The corner of County Road 7 and Granite Drive could be spared clear cutting under a directive voted on by the Hubbard County Board Wednesday. Residents asked that some of the trees be spared. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

The political nature of Hubbard County's forestry policy came to light Wednesday during discussion of a tract proposed for sale at the June timber sale.

Members of the Cool Ridge Resort development on Big Sand Lake came to the county board to implore Land Commissioner Mark Lohmeier to scale back the cutting of a 60-acre tract that runs west of County Road 7 and east of the lake. It contains popple trees 80-90 years old and 90-year-old pines, said Lohmeier.

Jon and Mary Monson and neighbors said they didn't want the piece clear cut and left barren.

"We value the drive in (on Granite Drive)," Jon Monson told the board. We're not here to try and disrupt commerce or be a thorn in anyone's side."

But Monson asked for "a tich of balance" for the sensitive area, so loggers don't leave it an eyesore.

"No one likes looking at a clear cut or a bad clear cut," Monson told the board. "We'd like to minimize the visual impact" of the logging on the shoreline's residents.

"This is wood that should have been cut 20 years ago," commissioner Cal Johannsen said.

"The truth of the matter is that we all build houses out of wood and have to cut trees to do it," commissioner Lyle Robinson said.

Monson offered to take up a collection to buy or save a buffer zone of trees, or even to purchase the tax-forfeited land the trees are located on.

"I'd be happy to go around and create a fund if this is about the money," Monson said. "We'd be happy to pay the logger $3,000 not to cut the buffer."

Monson asked if the tract could be pulled from the June 12 timber sale until a compromise could be reached.

"I feel like a salmon swimming upstream," he admitted to the board.

But he said he did not want his interests to burden other taxpayers.

The last logging in the area was 22 years ago, according to Lohmeier.

"I certainly understand where they're coming from," Johannsen said. "But we've talked extensively about (cutting) old wood. This is not an isolated incident... It's the reason we have old wood."

"We need to get our arms around this problem," Robinson said. "We are in a resort area. We should leave a 300-foot strip of selectively cut wood and plant some (new). You wouldn't clear cut the piece. You would manage the piece."

Leaving small tracts of buffer zones might discourage bidding at future timber sales, Lohmeier said. The commissioners disagreed, saying a small logger could bid on a 4-acre sale.

The board has pressured Lohmeier to cut many of the stands of older wood in the county that are falling down. A committee has been appointed to steer the department's future logging policies.

"Chip (Lohmeier) is doing this because we've harassed him into doing this," Board chair Dick Devine said. "I hate to set a precedent like this" of sparing pieces of land.

But Devine conceded, "a lot of people are living there" on the lake's shoreline. The board voted to modify the sale by leaving buffer zones at the intersection of County 7 and Granite Road and near the area where the residents live.

The county has been pushing to remove the old growth to make room for new. Commissioners also wanted to leave enough of a buffer zone near Big Sand so as not to create a wind tunnel that would jeopardize other trees.

The modified parcel and 28 others will go up for auction June 12 in Park Rapids.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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