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At one time, Lincoln County was covered with magnificent stands of pine, hemlock and hardwoods on the highlands and cedar, spruce, and balsam on its lowlands. These forests provided raw materials for a thriving lumber industry from 1860 to about 1910. The logging slash left behind was ideal for wildfires, which occurred from 1920 to 1940, leaving the land barren and tax delinquent.
During 1934, the Lincoln County Board began discussing the possibility of establishing a forest reserve. It was felt that the thousands of acres of tax delinquent land throughout the county would be utilized best by keeping them in timber production. In December of 1934, 60,000 acres were qualified for the state’s forest crop program and were included in the Forestry and Recreation District.
On May 7, 1935, the County Forest Reserve was established with these and other pending lands. By November 13, 1935, Lincoln County had 74,247 acres included in the Forest Reserve.
On May 6, 1936, the County Forest Ordinance was drafted. This ordinance established the Lincoln County Forest and outlined its uses and regulations. A Forestry Committee was also formed and its duties established. The first committee members were Edward Scheu-Chairman, Con Voermans, Frank Schielke and Gust Peterson. One of the first things the committee did was petition the Civilian Conservation Corps to bring the Newwood Camp back to full strength to replant approximately 45,000 acres of severely burned lands. Early phases of development of the county forest consisted largely of investment in the planting of open areas. Much of the early planting was done by hand using Works Projects Administration (W.P.A) labor and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) labor.
The county agricultural agent handled the administration of the County Forest until 1940 when the first County Forest Administrator position was formed and given to Francis Fox. Since that time there have been three other administrators. Rudolph Boes was the second and Ole Hanson served from 1957 to 1993. William Wengeler, the present administrator, took over in 1993. The forestry staff has also increased to include an assistant administrator, two foresters, three clerical positions, a shop foreman, two forestry workers and a summer parks worker.
Since the initiation of the Lincoln County Forest it has been the goal of the committee to add acreage to the program by trading, buying and re-claiming tax delinquent lands.
As of January 1, 2000, there are over 98,000 acres under the management of the Lincoln County Forestry Department, with intentions of acquiring more acreage. The average annual allowable cut for the Lincoln County Forest is 2,500 acres with an annual income nearing the $1 million mark.