Cambria Somerset Authority officials have soured on an offer to lease some Quemahoning Dam acreage for maple sugar harvesting.
After spending several months exploring the idea and receiving a second offer to tap the trees, the board voted Thursday to pass. The plan would have tied up too much valuable timber acreage, authority members said.
Not only would putting taps on maple trees within a 150-acre section of the authority’s land reduce the value of those trees, forester Michael Barton told the board at its meeting, but such leases also would prevent the harvesting of cherry, oak and ash trees in the same woods.
“Between the maple trees and the cherry, oak and others ... you’re potentially talking $350,000 conservatively,” Barton said, noting the price for one species could spike at any moment and the board would need to be in a position to react.
With emerald ash borer beetle infestations moving eastward into Cambria County and quickly killing ash trees, the authority will almost certainly need to act soon to harvest those trees or risk losing them altogether, Barton added.
“The (maple syrup) plan seemed like a good one,” board member Mark Wissinger said. “But it kinda seems like we’re opening up a can of worms.”
Michael Rosey of Hooversville initially approached the authority in September about putting taps on trees and collecting sap for syrup over a 10-year period. He proposed a contract that would have paid $93,750 over the life of the deal, based on 12,500 taps.
The board considered the offer, but authority manager Earl Waddell noted the board would have needed to offer the acreage for lease to any interested parties because of the significant value.
The idea had attracted another syrup producer, but the board opted to avoid taking the offer any further.
“It was worth exploring,” the board’s chairman, Jim Greco, said. “There was just too much involved.”
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