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Counties seeking stable forest funds

Area county officials don’t appear to be in the gambling moodwhen it comes to revenue they receive from timber harvesting onnational forest lands.

Counties that have part of a national forest in them receive 25percent of receipts when timber is harvested. Lincoln Countyreceives about $100,000 a year from activities in the HomochittoNational Forest.

“We get half of that and the other half goes to the LincolnCounty School District,” said Tillmon Bishop, countyadministrator.

For Franklin County, the amount is much greater due to theamount of national forest land in the county. Supervisor Carl RayLehmann said the revenue totals over $1 million normally andaccounts for a large part of the county’s budget.

But a recent federal law change is asking supervisors to decidehow they want to receive forest funds. One option is to lockcurrent funding levels, with a main spending string attached, forthe next six years or to receive payments based on futureharvesting activities during the same period.

Franklin County supervisors have opted for the stable fundingmethod. Lincoln County supervisors are expected to make a decisionMonday.

With the stable funding option, 15 percent of the county’s fundsmust go to cooperation extension service forestry educationefforts. Lincoln County Agent Perry Brumfield said the money wouldbe beneficial.

“We can really work with it from the education standpoint andhave some opportunities with our forest landowners,” Brumfieldsaid.

Franklin County officials said their decision was based on anuncertain future with the timber industry and “tree huggers'”efforts to stop cutting on forest lands.

“The deal now, they just don’t want to cut timber period,”Lehmann said.

Lincoln County officials were also leaning toward the levelfunding option, Bishop said. He said the immediate timber futurelooks OK, but the future does not look as promising.

“We know it’s going to be good for the next two years. Afterthat, it’s kind of a roll-the-dice type thing,” Bishop said.