Forestry Study Committee To Address Economic Challenges
By Jeff Helms
Legislators, landowners and timber industry representatives convened an organizational meeting of the Legislative Forestry Study Committee, May 15, to address the severe economic challenges facing Alabama's forest industry.
|From left, Alabama Farmers Federation State Forestry Committee Member Emory Mosley of Washington County, State Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, State Forester Linda Casey and Federation State Forestry Committee Chairman John Rudd of Russell County, met following the organizational session of the Forestry Study Committee.|
Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, who was elected chairman, said the committee was originally established in 1979 by state law and was recently reactivated by Gov. Bob Riley and the Legislature due to the devastating effects of the economic recession on the forest industry.
"We hear a lot about the issues in the car industry and banking industry, but the forest industry also is in trouble," said Fincher, who is the only registered forester in the Legislature. "We are facing times like we've never seen before. In the past six months, five Alabama sawmills have closed, and landowners have seen the value of their timber fall as much as 25 percent. This committee will raise awareness of the challenges facing landowners and the forest industry and will make recommendations about steps that can be taken to strengthen this important industry."
A major factor affecting the forest industry is a 63.2 percent drop in residential housing starts in the Southeast during the last year. In addition, paper and paperboard production are down almost 20 percent in the last year, and Southern plywood production is at its lowest level in 30 years.
Richard Brinker, dean of Auburn University's School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, was elected vice chairman of the committee. Other members are: Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro; Sen. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland; Sen. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill; Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville; Rep. Tommy Sherer, D-Jasper; State Forester Linda Casey; Federation State Forestry Committee Chairman John Rudd of Russell County and Vice Chairman Emory Moseley of Washington County; Arione Irby, Wilcox County; Steve Harris, Alabama River Woodlands; Chris Potts, Alabama Loggers Council; Doug Bowling, Resource Management Service; and Jim King of the Westervelt Company.
Among the issues the committee will study are shutdowns and work slowdowns at pulp and paper mills and sawmills; the effects of urban sprawl on the forest industry; forest health and invasive plant species; the emerging market for biomass as an alternative energy source; water quality; carbon sequestration; transportation and increasing regulations.