With harvests of large-scale timber tracts in the Clatsop State Forest expected to move forward sooner rather than later, revenue projections calculated from those potential deals have begun to shift upward.
The state forest’s latest revenue projections released last week show a 14 percent increase over the previous projections for the fiscal year 2013. Early reports for fiscal year 2014 indicate $18.2 million in total revenue generated by the sale of harvested timber on state-owned timber land, with $11.6 million expected to be distributed to the county and its taxing districts, and the remaining $6.6 million going to the state forest.
Although the percentage growth shows an increase over previous projections, it represents a mere stabilization in real dollars over the last few years.
“The prices are stable now,” said Ron Zilli, assistant district forester for the Clatsop State Forest. “We’re getting reasonable prices for our wood. We’re getting interest in all of our sales. There are no sales we put up that we haven’t sold.”
Recent sales of state-owned timber tracts have been competitive, he said, often with three to five bidders per property.
But because revenue projections for timber payments are difficult to pinpoint exactly, as they rely on uncertain knowledge – such as when a timber company plans to harvest the land and what sort of price they will receive once the wood sells – the projections are considered incomplete. Timber companies are contractually bound to harvest land within three years of purchasing it from the state forest.
Increases to the state forest’s projections increased because timber-sale prices have not fluctuated wildly recently, Zilli says, and because companies have indicated they plan to continue harvesting operations.
Of the $11.6 million that local taxing districts are tentatively slated to receive in 2014, the county is poised to collect 21 percent of that, or $2.4 million. Of that figure, $1.4 million would go into the general fund, while the remaining $1 million would go toward special projects.
Mike Robison, the director of central services for Clatsop County, said the projections leave room for improvement.
“That’s basically a decrease over 2012-13,” Robison said, as he reviewed the figures.
With the projections stabilizing, Robison says he does not expect the county’s special projects to be affected.
And Zilli says he’s optimistic that the projections for 2014 will improve to around $22 million.
In the end, the county is not expected to receive as much from the timber payments as one school district.
The Jewell School District is slated to receive 87 percent of the overall pot of money distributed to all the school districts in 2014. As projected, that amounts to $3.2 million.
The Jewell School District typically receives a large percentage of the timber payments because of its rural location, surrounded as it is by the state forest, but this is the largest percentage Zilli has seen in recent memory.
For the county, the eventual figures for timber payments will rely heavily on outside economic factors, particularly whether a still-slumping home construction market picks up.
“I’m optimistic that they are going to improve somewhat,” Zilli said. “I don’t think they will get worse.”
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.