Timber funds coming to Adams County

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 20, 2001

Timber sales from national forests are in jeopardy forcing governing agencies such as Adams County to make tough choices.

During Monday’s Adams County Board of Supervisors meeting, Darryl Grennell said Adams County has decided to only collect a set amount of its annual proceeds from timber sales with the start of the upcoming fiscal year.

A new option allows the board to determine its set rate by calculating the average of its three best timber years and collecting that amount from the U.S. government for the next six years.

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&uot;Most people who are studying the program say that is probably going to be the best deal,&uot; said Supervisor Lynwood Easterling.

But really it’s a lose-lose situation no matter what, he said.

&uot;The main thing is we lost a lot of money – Adams County did and it’s going to hurt everybody,&uot; Easterling said.

The supervisors brought up the issue Monday during a presentation from Steve Dicke, with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Dicke attended the meeting to discuss the changes and new requirements under the law.

The holdup on the timber sales in Mississippi is in part due to administrative problems with the U.S. Forestry Service and lawsuits filed by environmental groups wanting to stop the harvesting of timber in national forests, Dicke said. This policy could mean big cuts to rural governments.

For example, in 1999, Adams County generated $230,000 in timber sales. But under the option it has taken, Adams County can only receive $184,000 in timber sales each year for the next years. Dicke said. But without that option, no one can guarantee what the county would receive.

&uot;It’s a hit but I guess it’s just something we’ve got to live with,&uot; said Adams County Administrator Charlie Brown.

Nearby Franklin County faces a larger loss. It averages more than a million dollars each year in timber sales. For this reason, Dicke questions the actions of the environmental groups.

&uot;They just don’t realize how much of our whole economy is centered around the growing and harvesting of trees,&uot; he said. &uot;That may sound horrible to them but that’s our way of life.&uot;

Of the county dollars collected in timber sales each year, 50 percent goes into the public school system and 50 percent goes into county road budgets for road construction and maintenance.

Because the lawsuits are holding up timber sales, congress allowed counties to lock in at the set rate to so they can continue to meet these expenses during this time.

&uot;The positive is your county school system will have a certain amount of money they can depend on in the next six years,&uot; Dicke said.

But the option also requires that county governments spend 15 percent of the money – in Adams County’s case $184,000 – on special projects such as forestry programs or search and rescue services, Dicke said.

The remainder of the money must then be split 50-50 between the school district and the county road fund, Dicke said.