For Vinton County Local School District, the trees the state cut down in Zaleski State Forest in the past few years have meant new computers, athletic fields and supplies.
Last year, the district received $178,547 from the state's Trees to Textbooks program, money that will be used this year to help improve schools in the economically depressed district.
"Although that amount of money in a $19 million budget does not seem like a lot, in fact, all of those small monies make the little things possible,'' Superintendent John Simmons said last week. "We're talking about helping well over 2,000 students here.''
Eighteen districts received a total of $743,420 last year from the sale of timber. Trees were logged on 1,500 acres of the 184,000 acres of state forests. Under the Ohio Department of Natural Resource's Trees to Textbooks forest-management program, schools get 40 percent of the revenue from logging projects in state forests.
Last year, the state made $1.5 million from timber sales and royalties from the production of minerals, such as oil and gas, on state land. Counties, townships, fire departments and the state general-revenue fund also received some of the proceeds.
The state rarely logs entire sections of trees, a process called clear- cutting. Instead, the state cuts one or a few trees in areas that are overcrowded or are at risk of becoming unhealthy, said Jim Lynch, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources.
"We're not cutting trees for the sake of cutting trees. It's not for money-making purposes,'' Lynch said last week. "We don't receive one penny of profit from this. We do timber-management projects for the health of the forest.''
Environmentalists contend that the state should not log trees in state forests at all because the roads that have to be built and the machinery that must be used to cut down even one tree affects entire forests.
"We have enough private land to get the timber we need. We should not be going into public lands to profit from timber,'' said Susan Heitker, state forest campaign coordinator for the Buckeye Forest Council. "And when you look at how much the schools really need, it's very little money that they're getting from this.''
Advocates for schools say every dollar helps, especially in the rural districts that get the most money from the timber sales.
Richard Fisher, executive director of the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools, said the money won't make a significant difference in education overall but that it could help individual students.
William Parrett, superintendent of the Franklin Local School District in Muskingum County, agreed. Referring to the logging money his district received, he said, "When you get a check for $6,855 that's not peanuts. It all helps.''