Newton County officials plan to ask for bids on harvesting timber from 200 or so acres near the intersection of Lower River Road and New Mote Road south of Covington.
The bids are to be let Aug. 29. The reason is simple: Timber, particularly hardwood, is worth a lot right now.
“It’s really, really good, really good,” said Mack Barber, the timber consultant hired by the county to manage the sale.
County Commission Chairman Keith Ellis on Wednesday said the county owns numerous tracts, some large, some small, and has mostly allowed them to sit quietly, paying nothing into the county’s coffers. County-owned land is not taxed.
“With hardwood prices at their highest peak ever,” it’s time to put that land to use, Ellis said.
The forests have been harvested before; old growth does not exist around here. Ellis said regulations require huge buffers of up to 200 feet along streams and around 100 feet from nearby homes, so the visual impact should be negligible.
Proceeds from the sales will go into the county’s general fund and pay for various county projects, Ellis said.
“The goal is to sell as much timber at the right price,” he said. “The county has a treasure trove of property. It’s just about trying to come up with additions to our budget without having tax dollars fund (all of) our projects.”
Ellis said some of the tracts the county owns won’t or can’t be harvested for their timber, either because of location or because the forests aren’t right for it; on some tracts, the trees just aren’t old enough.
The largest single tract owned by the county — the land to be inundated by the Bear Creek Reservoir – can’t be harvested yet, either, because of the ongoing permitting process with state and federal environmental agencies.
“Mainly, we just have to go in and see which areas can bring revenue to Newton County” without hurting the environment, he said.