Polk County Forestry

The mission of the Polk County Forest is to provide, protect and manage forest resources for the environmental and social benefits they provide present and future citizens of Polk County.

Managing for environmental needs includes protecting and restoring watersheds, native communities and biological diversity plus providing protection from wildfire, insects, diseases and human degradation. Managing for social needs includes providing recreational opportunities, economic returns and raw material for wood using industries.

Management must balance local needs with broader concerns through integration of forestry, wildlife, fisheries, endangered resources, water quality, soil and recreational recommendations and practices. Management will provide this variety of products and amenities for the future through the use of sustainable forest management practices.

The 17,149 acres of County Forest has two distinct areas. Two thirds of the County Forest is in the northwest of the county in Sterling Township. This area has sandy soils derived from glacial outwash. The most common trees are jack pine, scrub oak, aspen and red pine. The remainder of the Forest is primarily in the northeast Townships of Lorain and McKinley. This area is dominated by red oak, northern hardwood and aspen stands.

The Polk County Forest came into existence in 1935 when the County Board made a resolution to enter non-revenue (tax delinquent) lands under the Forest Crop program. The majority of this land was cutover and or burned over forestland.

The County Forest is enjoyed by thousands of individuals for various pursuits, such as: hunting, hiking, snowmobiling, horseback riding, berry picking, ATV riding (on designated trails only), firewood gathering, (permits for cutting personal use firewood are available for $8 per standard cord).

Excerpt from Polk County Board Resolution 88-91:
“The construction, occupation or use of any elevated device is prohibited on any county owned land except that portable tree stands may be used provided they are completely removed each day at the close of hunting hours and provided such devices do no damage to trees in which they are placed.”

Excerpt from Polk County Board Resolution 44-87:
“All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) may be operated in County Forest Land on designated trails only.”

Currently the Polk County Forest has one designated ATV trail in the Town of Sterling.