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March 24, 2018

Evan J. Pretzer/Lakeland TimesOneida County assistant forest director Paul Fiene briefs officials on the current downturn in the timber market Wednesday, March 7.
Evan J. Pretzer/Lakeland Times

Oneida County assistant forest director Paul Fiene briefs officials on the current downturn in the timber market Wednesday, March 7.
3/10/2018 7:27:00 AM
Fiene: Oneida County's timber market is entering a downturn

Evan J. Pretzer
Lakeland Times reporter

Assistant forest director Paul Fiene briefed the Oneida County Forestry Committee on Wednesday about problems with the area logging market.

Due to recent historical success - 2017 was one of the highest years in recent memory for timber stumpage - a glut of wood is available for mills in the region to take in.

As a result, many are now shutting their doors to process what they have, meaning companies can not sell what they were initially approved to cut and the county may not generate similar revenue levels as before.

"I talked with the three main mills our contractors take wood to. They've said they're at or near physical capacity of where they can store wood," Fiene told the committee. "Normally, this is their peak inventory time, but with the very good conditions we've had this year for logging, they've kept taking in more wood probably beyond their normal volumes. "One of the log mills we deal with (Northwest Hardwoods) ... seems to think this downturn is very similar to what we experienced in 2008."

According to a document Fiene gave to the committee which summarizes his conversations with various mills, the current slump is indeed similar to what occurred a decade ago.

Also, officials from Northwest Hardwoods and mills in Tomahawk and Rothschild expressed hope in the document for things turning around by the third quarter of the year (July, August and September), but the form then noted a dry spring or summer would prolong decreased revenue for Oneida County. In spite of this estimation, Fiene feels the area will be in good shape due to the slump being usually a slow time in stronger markets.

"This downturn is happening right in our traditional low period because normally after March, there's been a few years where I think we had (nothing in the summer)," he said. "So, this is happening at our traditional down period. If we're lucky we will follow this with an upturn towards the end of the year. We could lose some revenue, but no one can predict what is going to happen."

Other business

After Fiene concluded his presentation to the committee, the group then revisited their ongoing negotiation with the Manitowoc-based McMullen & Pitz Construction Co. to repair some bridges on the Burrows Lake all-terrain vehicle system in Little Rice.

Last month, Oneida County officials indicated they were losing patience and mulling legal action. Since then, nothing has changed. The contract for the repairs is still not signed and lawyers are still discussing details.

Evan J. Pretzer may be reached via email at

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