There's gold in them hills. And green, too.
Josephine County recently hit the jackpot when it discovered it had about twice as much annually harvestable timber as it thought.
Now, it hopes to spend the windfall on juvenile justice programs.
New surveys indicate the extra timber is available for harvest.
"The county was going on old data," said Dave Streeter, hired last year as forestry timber manager for the county.
The county has about 30,000 acres of forest land, and new modeling shows sustainable annual harvests could be about 7.5 million board feet, compared with about 3.5 million board feet allowable under the outdated data.
Bigger harvests, coupled with higher timber prices and management changes, could pump an extra $500,000 a year into the county's coffers.
County officials want to use the revenue to reopen the county's closed youth shelter, which was shuttered along with the adjoining detention center amid budget cuts five years ago.
It all depends on whether voters approved the latest public safety levy, on the May 16 ballot. Voters have rejected five straight prior levy proposals since the 2012 cuts that forced deep layoffs at the Sheriff's Office and in juvenile justice programs.
If the levy passes it would fund operations not only at the county jail but also allow the county to reopen the youth detention center. The timber money, meanwhile, would be used to reopen the shelter.
If the levy fails, juvenile funding would remain as is, at nearly $1 million. That means the shelter and the detention center would remain closed.
How to spend the money is not Streeter's job. He's trying to grow and cut the most timber he can on a sustainable basis — what he calls living off the interest, not the principal.
"Generating the best growth and the best revenue," he said during a trek up Quartz Creek Road near Hugo, where the timber on a plot of county forest land is going up for auction Thursday.
"We're trying to grow the future for the county," he said. "We're trying to do the right thing for the ground."
County Commissioner Simon Hare has said dedicating timber harvest proceeds to juvenile programs gives the forestry program an attractive purpose. Hare expects formal approval after the May 16 election.
On a recent tour of the pending auction site, Streeter piloted his pickup truck up the road as it paralleled rushing Quartz Creek. All was not beautiful, however: There was too much trash, and someone left a fire smoldering.
The land along the road was a mix of county, federal and private holdings. Up top, the views of mountains and valleys were stunning, what could be seen through a blanket of low clouds.
Streeter stopped atop a ridge, at an 80-acre plot of county timberland that has timber due to go up for auction Thursday along with other timber valued at total of nearly $2 million.
"It's nice to get out here," Streeter said, as Blue Girl, his charming but fidgety blue heeler, bounded from the rig.
Orange paint marked the types of trees to be saved in the upcoming harvest, which will serve to thin the forest, allowing larger, healthy trees to thrive. Farther down a bumpy track was a cleared section burned over in 2014.
To one side, over an embankment, someone had dumped maybe 20 5-gallon containers. Streeter said forest trash dumping is getting worse. Squatters cause some of it. Others dump household trash. Off-roaders destroy some, too.
"It sickens me," Streeter remarked. "They talk about the beauty of the county. Let's all work together to keep it looking that way."
— Reach reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3722 or email@example.com