Timber industry futures uncertain

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The southeast sometimes suffers from a variety of catastrophic events such as Hurricane Ivan. Such catastrophes can hurt timber producers through their effects on production, and prices if damages are widespread. When damages are widespread the risks to production and price are not independent, they are joint.

Catastrophic shocks to existing stocks of a renewable resource can cause long-run price shifts. With timber, a short-run price drop due to salvage may accompany these long-run price shifts.

Local Forester Russell Crenshaw said he could not be sure what the long-term effects would be, but felt there could be some negative results from Hurricane Ivan.

&uot;There is going to be a lot of timber down,&uot; said Crenshaw. &uot;People are going to have a difficult time salvaging it because of the large amount. For some it could take a year or more.&uot;

Robert Foster, a forester with Larson and McGowin Inc., said they would have to wait and see what the effects would be.

&uot;We really don’t know what the effects will be yet,&uot; said Foster. &uot;Of course, there is widespread damage throughout the area especially south and west of Greenville.&uot;

The big fear for most landowners is a reduction in timber prices. With the surplus amount of timber that will be coming in this fear will likely become a reality.

&uot;It could mean a reduction in timber prices,&uot; said Crenshaw. &uot;It all depends. First we have to see how widespread the damage is. Obviously, from here south the damage is going to be pretty bad. It is worse than Opal.&uot;

Foster said he also felt timber prices might be destined to fall in Ivan’s wake.

&uot;I think with all the timber that will be on the market prices are bound to go down,&uot; said Foster. &uot;There is also the possibility that there will not be enough logging crews to go around.&uot;

As far as long term effects, both said that remained to be seen.

&uot;We don’t really know what the long term effects will be,&uot; said Crenshaw. &uot;One result could be a lot of frustrated people that don’t know when they will be able to sell because of the amount of timber down.&uot;

Foster said the long term effects are up in the air, but the short term could be tough.

&uot;We really don’t know what the long term effects will be right away,&uot; said Foster. &uot;The short term could be rough with all the timber that is down.&uot;

The hope now is to salvage all the timber possible. There can be problems with this even when logging crews are available. Just because a tree is down does not mean it can be salvaged as timber.

Now it is just a matter of assessing the loss and damage. Officials hope to have this done as soon as possible.

A statement released by the Alabama Forestry Commission said officials began aerial surveys of timber stands Monday morning. It also said they would map the survey information and estimates the amount of timber down on the ground.

The combined effects of wind and water caused most of the timber damage. The heavy rains softened the ground, leaving trees less stable, and winds blew them down.

Forestry officials were hoping that not much timber was lost to tornado winds, because that wood is often a complete loss. Trees downed by straight-line winds can typically be sold.