US lumber companies head South

Les Schaffer godzilla at
Tue Aug 8 10:53:44 MDT 2000

Logging's Shift South Brings Concern on Oversight


UNION MILLS, N.C. -- In a major shift, timber companies have stepped
up logging operations in the South, where they face less regulation
than in the carefully monitored forests of the Pacific Northwest.


In North Carolina, which is typical of Southern states, logging on
private land does not require state approval, and the state does
little to monitor the extent of timber harvests.

As a result, federal officials and industry critics said, they are
seeing several troubling trends. For the first time, softwoods like
pine are being harvested faster than they can be replaced, and
projections in the Southern Resources Assessment suggested that the
more valuable hardwoods face a similar fate.

Officials also pointed to a wider use of clear-cutting operations that
have laid bare vast tracts of forest.

The relentless appetite for wood is being fed by an economy that has
produced a strong market for construction. Small towns like Union
Mills in western North Carolina have felt the boom in the form of chip
mills, like the one here owned by the Willamette Industries Inc. of
Portland, Ore., that grind wood into chips for making paper. More than
100 such mills have sprung up across the South in the past 15 years,
most since 1995.

Among those concerned about the shift in logging has been the chief of
the United States Forest Service, Mike Dombeck. Over the past 20
years, Mr.  Dombeck said in a speech in June to a group of writers, a
huge surplus in the growth of timber over harvests in the South has
been all but eliminated.

"The issue is a question of basic sustainability," Mr.  Dombeck
said. "Harvest levels cannot exceed growth if forests are to continue
providing healthy fish and wildlife habitats, clean and pure drinking
water, and scenic beauty."


"Personally, I've always waited until the trees get big, and only then
do I saw them," said Rodney Robbins, 44, a third-generation logger
from Union Mills. "But these timber companies only see one way of
doing things: they just want to go in and mow everything down."

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