Tigerton lands are still open to public this year

By Kevin Naze Correspondent

Tigerton, Wis. — Thousands of acres of Tigerton Lumber Company
property in Shawano and Waupaca counties meant to be leased this
year are instead open to public hunting.

A clerical error – Tigerton didn’t get all the paperwork to the
DNR in time for its Dec. 1 deadline last year – means more than
4,000 acres of land that potentially were going to be leased at
$1,600 per 40 acres are still available to anyone this fall.

More than 1,300 acres of the now-open lands are in Waupaca
County’s township of Harrison. Another big chunk – nearly 600 acres
– is in the township of Wyoming.

In Shawano County, there are nearly 300 acres open in the
township of Morris and more than 200 acres open in each of
Germania, Grant, Morris, Almon, Aniwa, and Hutchins townships. Nine
other townships in the two counties have open land ranging from 25
to more than 130 acres.

Some of the properties are landlocked, which means anyone
wanting to get there would need permission of an adjacent private
landowner. Much of it, though, is adjacent to land already owned by
Tigerton Lumber. Some of that adjacent land already is leased.

Still, said Rich LaValley, the DNR’s tax law specialist in
Tomahawk, public access to open parcels within Tigerton Lumber
property can’t be denied.

“We’ve been very clear to Tigerton (Lumber) that they have to
let the public access this land, even if the lands around (the open
parcel) are closed (under the Managed Forest Law program),”
LaValley said.

Tigerton had posted some lands that were open under the Managed
Forest Law this year. When company officials didn’t take the signs
down after being warned, four citations were written.

Tigerton also was asked to talk to its leasees and inform them
not to harass or impede access of anyone trying to hunt on the
properties that are legally open. In addition, advertisements
listing the legal descriptions of the open parcels were run in a
Clintonville newspaper.

“They’ve been very cooperative,” LaValley said. “They’re
generating maps for anyone who is interested.”

Pat Bailey, the woodlands manager at Tigerton Lumber, said the
properties in question will be closed to the public as of Jan. 1,
2007. He said that will bring the company’s total taken out of open
Managed Forest Law for leasing purposes to about 14,300 acres.

The number is expected to climb another 2,000 or so acres by
Jan. 1, 2008, Bailey said. After that, it depends on demand for the
hunting land, which so far has been fairly strong.

“It seems to me that people are fed up with dealing with a lot
of conflict on public land,” Bailey said.

Timber theft, nails in trees, and time-consuming phone calls
from hunters during the season were among the frustrations company
officials had to deal with.

“We own the property, but it seemed like we were doing a lot of
babysitting,” Bailey said. “The main reason we did this was to try
to take back control of our property. It was a way for us to hold
somebody accountable.”

Tigerton Lumber owns about 42,000 acres in a dozen or so
counties, Bailey said, with the bulk of the land in Shawano and
Waupaca counties. If the market allows, Bailey said about half of
that land could be leased within three years.

Those who had already leased parcels which weren’t available
this year were offered three options: their money back, money
toward a 2007 lease, or another available parcel. Rick Liedman, of
Clintonville, who handles the leases for Tigerton Lumber, said it
was nearly an equal split between those who chose to use the money
for ‘07 and those who selected another parcel.

Many of those who deferred their payment until next year are
bowhunting the now-open land and will be hunting it during the gun
deer season, as well. Liedman said he doesn’t expect any conflicts,
as Tigerton made it clear to everyone who had been leasing that the
land is open to the public.

Landowners who allow public use when enrolling lands in the
Managed Forest Program program receive a substantial tax break for
good, sustainable forestry practices, but owners are heavily
penalized if they withdraw the land early. In recent years,
Tigerton removed about 2,000 acres from the program and sold it,
paying close to $200,000 in back taxes. Last year, the company took
advantage of a clause that allowed it to close the land legally by
creating 142 different ownerships of 80 acres or less.

That decision to remove more than 10,000 acres of land last year
displaced hundreds of hunters, many of whom had hunted the lands
for decades.

“It’s basically a business decision,” Bailey said. “Yeah, a lot
of hunters were upset, but we also had a pretty good response from
neighboring landowners who wanted to do some deer management.”

Much of the leased land is being managed for trophy bucks.

Bailey said much of the land is taxed at between $1,000 and
$1,200 per 40 acres.

“If a guy can cover his taxes, who wouldn’t do it (in this
situation)?” Bailey said.

Liedman said some hunters were caught trespassing earlier this
bow season.

“The first time we gave them the benefit of the doubt,” Liedman
said. “The second time around, they got fined and the word must
have spread fast, as it hasn’t been a problem since.”

Neenah businessman Greg Duerr, who owns or leases more than
2,000 acres in the area, said it’s important not to charge up and
verbally attack in any trespassing situation.

“You have to treat people with respect, especially with lands
that have been open to the public for so many years,” Duerr
said.

The deer herd, meanwhile, is still large, Bailey said.

“We’re trying to regenerate hardwoods in this area – hard maple,
red oak, white ash, soft maple, basswood – and the deer are pretty
hard on it,” he said. “We’re making a conscious effort to shoot
does.”

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