When Verso Corp. shut down its operations earlier this year, it raised concerns for Douglas County officials.

The paper mills in Duluth and Wisconsin Rapids took nearly 25% of the timber cut from Douglas County-owned forest lands, and officials were concerned about the dent that would put into timber sales.

For Douglas County, timber sales are about a $3.6 million business. The sales pay for parks, recreation and trails and contribute to the government’s operating budget annually.

So far, that number seems to be holding strong. A timber sale held Wednesday, Oct. 28, produced more than $1.2 million in bids, bringing the total of sales in 2020 to more than $4 million.

“I think overall, we’re happy with the sales,” said Mark Liebaert, forestry committee chairman. “We were a little nervous. We only had a few that did not sell, but those weren’t new. They were ones we’ve already been having trouble selling.”

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He said the bids were pretty typical of what the county has experienced for a timber sale that size. Where the county has really struggled is with winter-only sales that require the ground to be frozen for the timber harvest.

Douglas County offers timber for sale three times a year, typically.

“Right now, (loggers) seem to be finding different markets because we’re kind of in the center of different markets for wood,” Liebaert said. “It’s not like down in Wisconsin Rapids where the only market they had was that mill.”

There is currently no good market for species like tamarack, balsam fir and some of those soft woods, said Jon Harris, director of forestry and natural resources for Douglas County.

It’s an issue the forestry committee plans to address during a special meeting that has yet to be scheduled.

Liebaert said the timber sale usually reflects what loggers believe the market will be like in the year following the sale.

“I’m pretty optimistic that there will be a market, and that’s good for the county,” Liebaert said.