By Jennifer Grimes
Triplicate staff writer
A local commission wants to keep thousands of acres of land open to the public to help make up for $600,000 a year the county will lose when the land is handed over to the parks.
Stimson Lumber Company plans to sell 25,000 acres of logged land in Del Norte County to Save-the-Redwoods League, which would then turn over jurisdiction to Redwood National and State Parks.
Because the county would lose a large chunk of tax revenue, the Del Norte County Fish and Game Advisory Commission is asking that the area be kept open for recreational and educational uses.
While acknowledging that the purchase will protect an important watershed and fish streams, FGAC is lobbying to keep roads through the area open and hunting, fishing and education activities allowable.
By offering recreational opportunities, the community can explore ideas for destination travelers that might be willing to stay longer in Del Norte County, Tangen said.
The forested land lays south of Crescent City, stretching from Highway 101 to the Smith River National Recreation Area. It borders national and state redwoods parks on the north and west.
The commission believes with some certainty that this sale, if funded by the State of California, could have substantial economic impact on the county of Del Norte, both in the loss of jobs and economic revenue, said commission chairman Lloyd Tangen in a letter to Governor Gray Davis and Redwood National Park Superintendent Rick Sermon.
The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors voted to endorse the letter on Tuesday.
Though Save-the-Redwoods League is still $15 million short of completing the sale, Stimson has stopped operations in anticipation of it.
Nearly $600,000 a year of combined property tax and timber yield tax was once generated by the land.
Losing that money will have direct impacts on several local public agencies, according to county assessor Gerald Cochran.
The Del Norte County Unified School District would take a cut of about $360,000 per year, the public library district stands to lose about $11,000 per year, the Crescent City Harbor District would lose even more, and the Crescent Fire Protection District also would lose some of its revenue.
Its a substantial amount of money. And theres a major rippling effect throughout the entire community, Cochran said.
Bob Fredenburg, an aid for State Sen. Wes Chesbro, said his office has been lobbying Gov. Davis to give Del Norte County a $2 million trust fund. In theory, the fund would collect interest each year to help replace the lost tax revenue.
Davis, however, vetoed that item from the recently signed state budget.
Davis did agreed, however, to give Save-the-Redwoods League at least $18 million to help it buy the land.
On top of losing tax income, Cochran noted the exit of Stimson has already resulted in the loss of 40 jobs here.
Thats 40 jobs gone that get wages and spend wages in the community, circulating that money. That money is now gone, he said.
Stimson laid off all but one worker last year in anticipation of the land sale, which Cochran guesses has been in the works for more than a year.