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Dean timber sales to benefit schools, county, township

Cutting down trees is not always damaging to our environment.

Timber sales from Ohio's state forests improve the health of the forests and also provide schools and local governments with money for text books and other supplies, according to state forestry officials.

Through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' "Trees to Textbooks" program, more than $1 million will be distributed this year to Ohio's townships, schools and county governments. The funds are generated by the sale of timber and mineral products from state forests and is donated in lieu of paying property taxes.

"While providing increased forest health benefits, this program provides funding to local schools and governments to conduct programs they otherwise might not afford," State Forester John Dorka said in a written statement. "Local school superintendents have been highly supportive of this program."

Sixteen Ohio school districts will split $500,000. The remainder of the funds will be divided among 13 counties and 20 townships.

The funds are divided based on state guidelines and the amounts harvested from the state forests located within the townships and counties. Dean State Forest near Pedro is the only state forest in Lawrence County.

The county commission was allocated $4,528, and Decatur Township also received $4,528. The Rock Hill School District received $9,056.

"It definitely does help out," Rock Hill Superintendent Lloyd Evans said. "This is funding that we do not receive on a regular basis. Because it is not usually budgeted, it allows us to review the budget and apply it where it is needed."

Primary uses will be to maintain bus turns within the district, purchase paper and pay for magazine subscriptions for the library, he said.

Commission President Jason Stephens said the commission was not really expecting the funds and did not know where it would be used, but he would like to find something that will benefit the schools or the children.

"Anything they can do to give back to the community, especially schools, is welcomed," he said. "There are lots of things the county does to help schools and the community that these funds can be used for."

"Trees to Textbooks" began in 1996, with the first checks distributed in 1998, said Bill Schultz,

information officer for ODNR's Division of Forestry.

The name was created because it sounds catchy, but the monies can be used wherever the schools and governments need it most.

"We think the program has been received very well, especially in the less fortunate rural districts that have more need," he said. "Ohio's forest industry is a $7 billion industry. This is a fantastic way to return some of those dollars to the communities."

Schultz said the ODNR would like to have more funds to contribute, but the state's budget constraints this year have lead to fewer timber sales.