The future of El Dorado County could very well depend on a renewal of past industry, according to Supervisor Ray Nutting.
The District 2 supervisors and forester told the crowd at the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce Business Awards luncheon Friday that while “Our forests are managed better than most,” county and U.S. Forest Service officials could do more to both protect and capitalize on the county’s natural resources. The Forest Service manages about 57 percent of El Dorado County’s land, Nutting explained. Three industries built El Dorado County – timber, mining and ranching – Nutting said, and he advocated a new investment in timber.
“The trees are still growing,” he said.
But timber values and harvests have sharply declined over the years, according to El Dorado County’s annual Crop Report. The 2009 report states that values fell nearly 70 percent over the year before; 20,181 million board feet of timber/by-products were harvested in 2009 and valued at $1.775 million. In 2008 almost 45,000 million board feet were harvested at a value of nearly $6 million.
Following his speech Nutting told the Mountain Democrat timber harvest declines directly impact the community. “The Camino mill shut down because of the lacking small log supply,” he said.
A renewed interest in natural resources along with partnerships with chambers of commerce, legislators, local leaders and fire safe councils could have many positive impacts, Nutting said, adding that past experience will guide future forest management.
Timber isn’t the only industry that’s had a lackluster performance these past few years. Nutting noted in his speech that property tax and sales tax revenue has declined, making it tough for county leaders who must match services offered with revenue collected. The Board of Supervisors will likely have to cut about $3 million more from its shrinking budget, he said. Still, Nutting offered a hint of optimism.
“El Dorado County is in great shape, better than most of the 58 California counties,” he said. “We are the last to tumble if the counties tumble.”
“Think Tanks” in the community are moving El Dorado County forward, he added, working to bring high-speed Internet to rural regions, debating the best forest management practices to prevent catastrophic wildfire and spending hours and hours to fix the El Dorado County General Plan so businesses can thrive.
Acknowledging that last goal, the Chamber of Commerce recognized Jim Brunello, a local developer and member of the county’s Economic Development Advisory Committee, for his continued efforts to revise the General Plan and create a business-friendly El Dorado County. Parker Development Co., the business behind Serrano in El Dorado Hills, also received recognition as the “Community Service Business of the Year.”
A longtime supporter of youth organizations and non-profits Bill Parker accepted the award and said he hopes to continue his philanthropic work, in both good and bad years to come.