St. Clair County to harvest trees near MidAmerica Airport

News-DemocratJune 20, 2013 

St. Clair County officials have hired a company to harvest and manage trees growing on more than 200 acres of wetlands and farmland near MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah.

Members of the Public Building Commission, which oversees the airport, approved the plan during a meeting Thursday. The airport will receive a third of the profits stemming from the company's harvesting of the trees.

The company, American Design Builders based in Columbia, expects MidAmerica to receive between $75,000 and $100,000 in profit.

American Design Builders owner Joe Crenshaw said his company will provide stewardship of the land as well as harvesting the trees. The stewardship will include clearing out dead trees and clearing canopies to allow younger trees to grow.

"We do a lot more than just cut timber," Crenshaw said.

MidAmerica Airport director Tim Cantwell said the clearing of trees was also needed to ensure aircraft had safe approaches to the runways at MidAmerica and Scott Air Force Base.

The airport had been searching since 2010 to find a company that would manage the land along with harvesting trees, Cantwell said. Many companies will only clear the trees from the land.

The project will take up to three years to complete. Work will be dependent upon weather and the hibernation period of the Indiana bat, a protected species. The harvesting can be done between October and April when the bat is hibernating.

After this clearing, the land will likely not need to be harvested again for 20 years, Crenshaw said.

The company will harvest soft hardwood trees, such as cottonwood, sycamore and maple trees, with trunk diameters of at least 18 inches.

Cantwell said the harvest will also help the county meet its wetland management plan.

The Commission also approved a $78,400 contract for Volkert Environmental Group in Collinsville to survey wetlands surrounding the airport. The survey is required under a permit issued to the county from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The permit is related to the use of wetlands near the airport, not the tree harvest.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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