Douglas County is expanding the state’s largest county forest.
The Douglas County Board on Thursday, Jan. 21, approved the purchase of 200 acres of land in the town of Wascott.
The purchase will ensure access to thousands of acres of county-owned forest land that surrounds the property.
Jon Harris, director of natural resources and forestry, explained Monday, Jan. 4, the need to purchase the property to the county’s forestry, parks and recreation committee.
“We always had a long-standing, good relationship with the landowner who has always allowed us to through these lands to access our lands,” Harris said. “Obviously, he’s looking to sell these so if they were sold to a party that no longer grants us access, it could really bottle up our stumpage opportunities down there”
Harris said they negotiated the price down from $1,200 an acre down to $900 an acre, for a sale price of $180,000.
“We also did a quick assessment of the property,” Harris said. "There’s probably $160,000, $170,000 of stumpage around these properties, so from an investment standpoint, we will be recouping this money over time.”
Nick Baker made the motion to approve to acquisition on Jan. 4 and again Thursday.
“I’m concerned about the price, but I understand that it’s worth it,” Baker said.
“The access value is there for us,” Harris said. “Plus, there’s stumpage.”
“Is this land really worth $900 an acre?” Sue Hendrickson asked during Thursday’s meeting.
With the property up for sale, county board chairman Mark Liebaert said if a new owner denies access to the existing roads through the property, the county would lose access to thousands of acres of forest because of the natural features of the landscape.
“This is not only worth it for future production, but it is a big purchase price for the access beyond the property,” Liebaert said.
The board also approved releasing $185,000 from the land acquisition fund to cover the purchase of the property and closing costs.
In other business, the board approved its capital improvement plan for 2020, allowing several county projects to move forward. The county had delayed the projects until there was more certainty about how the county’s finances would be affected by the pandemic.