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District plans selective tree harvest

| Saturday, Oct. 19, 2002

There's gold in them thar hills, and North Hills School District is hiring professional foresters to get at it.

The foresters will harvest timber at several school sites to make extra green for the district, said Tom Patton, director of facilities.

The endeavor could generate between $800 and $1,200 per acre, or $50,000 to $100,000 overall, he said.

The district has more than 250 unused acres, Patton said.

Patton said the district will hire Anundson & O'Barto of Moon Township to handle the timbering.

The timbering will take place at the secondary campus, Highcliff Elementary School, Ross Elementary School and Reis Run Park in Ross. The district owns the park.

Forester Tom Anundson said the area to be forested is a typical hardwood stand for the area, with oak, cherry, maple and ash trees.

Crews will inventory the district property to determine exactly how much the trees are worth.

Patton said that after the inventory is completed, the project will be put out to bid and logging companies will come in.

"Essentially, we are weeding a big garden," Anundson said. "We'll remove dead, dying and diseased trees. But then we look at how the trees relate to each other and grow.

"If we do it properly, there's no reason why the school can't harvest every 10 years. We're trying to balance a timbering income with aesthetics," he said. "There's a combination of goals here."

Anundson said the timber market has been stable and that the district's income potential does not depend on immediacy.

"(The market) has seasonal fluctuations. The timber market has been strong for about five straight years," he said.

Patton said his department generally costs the district money, not the other way around.

"We're always looking for different ways to generate revenue," he said. "Typically, my department doesn't generate revenue."

The idea seemed a natural thing to do, Patton said.

"Just in grass, we cut 28 acres a week. We have a lot of forest, and it is getting thick," he said. "We remove a lot of fallen and dying trees."

Patton also said he doesn't want the public to think that the district is getting into the clear-cutting business.

"I am a little concerned that people will misunderstand what we're trying to do," he said. "(Anundson & O'Barto) handle the whole thing. They don't clear-cut, and it is healthy to do some thinning. It prevents forest fires, but you have to do it right. Most of our campuses are right in a neighborhood. These cuts would take two or three days at most and have no more than two trucks a day. It's going be relatively undisruptive to the neighborhood."

Patton said those living near the forested sites might see advantages to the project.

"We're going to leave some paths for residents to walk through because people generally do like to walk the forest," he said.

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