School land plan goal to maximize revenue

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Revenue generated from the Brookhaven School District’s 16thSection lands is expected to double over the next decade with astate-level shift in management policy, officials said duringTuesday’s board meeting.

Lincoln County Forester Stuart Sellers said the district’s10-year intake would increase from an average of $598,000 to $1.2million, and annual revenues would likewise double to $120,787.Aggressive new management policies agreed upon by the MississippiForestry Commission and the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Officewould see 16th Section timber stands harvested more regularly, hesaid, and the Brookhaven district has plenty of harvest-readystands.

“We’re gonna take them out of there pretty quick,” Sellers said.”If we make $1.2 million, that’s $1.2 million the taxpayers won’thave to put up.”

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Sellers said 82 percent of the district’s 1,929 acres areforested, and 52 percent of those acres are covered in over-maturesaw timber stands. The commission will begin taking down standsthat are approximately 35 years old – calculated to be the optimumage for generating revenue – and Sellers said the Brookhavendistrict has many stands of older, higher-risk trees.

“If you have a tornado go across a 60-year-old stand, you’regoing to lose a lot of value,” he explained. “We’re going to targetthose older trees first. We will be producing more revenue per acreby doing this.”

Foresters will begin thinning the district’s stands quickly,with expected revenue of $57,826 in 2010 tripling to $174,880 in2011. Revenues are expected to level off at a high amount beyond2011 when foresters begin thinning harvest-ready timber every fiveto seven years.

“And we’ll be planting new trees as we go that will growfaster,” Sellers said. “The school board will be getting moretimber growth per year than they’ve ever had.”

Kelly McMullan, an attorney with the secretary of state’soffice, said the Brookhaven School District has the fifth-highestrevenue-producing timber sales in the state. He said Secretary ofState Delbert Hosemann and new state forester Charlie Morgan wantBrookhaven and all districts to begin taking better advantage offorestry sales.

“[Hosemann] wants to see the timber on 16th Section landsmanaged properly so the school districts can generate the mostrevenue possible,” McMullan said.

Sellers said the commission and school boards across the statewould begin updating their contracts to allow more flexibility in16th Section management, including the ability for foresters tosubmit a year-long list of projects board members can approve inbulk, eliminating the need for foresters to visit school boardsseveral times per year.

Many such contracts are far out of date, he said. Brookhaven’scontract with the forestry commission dates back to 1978.