"The handling of our forests as a continuous, renewable resource means permanent employment and stability to our country life."--Franklin D. Roosevelt
Arkansas' forests are healthy and productive. They provide clean air and water, excellent wildlife habitat, scenic beauty, and jobs. Forests are not "either/or" places. Rather, they are "both/and" places. Forest landowners can manage for all these objectives together. All Arkansans win because our forests are healthy today.
Here are a few facts from the latest (2014) Arkansas Forest Facts published by the U.S. Forest Service and the Arkansas Forestry Commission from data compiled from permanent forest sample plots over the past 60-plus years. These plots are measured once every five years, 20 percent each year.
In 1978 there were 17.8 million acres of forest containing 600 million tons of trees in Arkansas. Today, there are 19 million acres containing 950 million tons of trees. That's an increase of over 16 tons per acre, or almost 50 percent.
Arkansas forests are growing 10.4 million tons of pine and 5.3 million tons of hardwood more than are being harvested annually.
Families and individuals own more than 60 percent of Arkansas's forests. About 19 percent are publicly owned. The forest industry owns less than 20 percent of Arkansas' forests.
Multiple owners in multiple landscapes with varied objectives for their forests can all have multiple benefits. In Arkansas, we are blessed with excellent hunting opportunities. Why? Our forests are healthy. In Arkansas, we are blessed with clean air and water much because our forests are healthy. In Arkansas, we are blessed with magnificent scenery largely because our forests are varied and healthy. In Arkansas, we are blessed with more than 26,000 jobs directly due to healthy forests.
A recent writer to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette claimed that two new pellet mills and a possible new pulp mill would clear over 800,000 acres of forest per year and pollute our air and water. That writer has inaccurate numbers and leaves out many facts.
Forestland owners in Arkansas are doing an excellent job of replanting forests as they are cut. All timber harvests are not clearcuts; most are thinnings where half or more of the trees per acre are left to grow. The size of trees that are used by pellet and pulp mills are more likely to be harvested in thinning operations. The writer's reference to "800,000 acres of clearcuts" is grossly overstated. The correct number should be 200,000 acres of thinning. That number represents only 1 percent of our forests and, more importantly, it represents only 38 percent of the net annual growth after current harvests.
Fact: We need these mills (all types of mills--pulp and paper, lumber, and pellet mills) to keep our forests in healthy growing condition. If we don't match the growth of the forest with removals, eventually we will have stagnant, dense forests that will be plagued by insects, disease, and wildfire. A tragic example of this problem lies in western states where mountain pine beetle and expensive, large-scale wildfires have come to be the norm. Last year was a record year in recent forest history as 10 million acres of forests burned, mostly in the west. In the early 2000s, the red oak borer, a native insect, wiped out 1 million acres of overly dense oak forests in Arkansas. This will continue if we don't balance growth and removals from our forest.
Fact: Forest industry provides jobs that average over $53,000 per employee per year, usually in rural counties, sometimes thought to be "poor."
Fact: Environmentalists, university foresters, state and federal agency foresters, professional loggers, and industrial foresters have worked together for more than two decades to train landowners and professionals (including 1,434 loggers last year). The training includes how to apply voluntary forestry best management practices for water-quality protection, how to conduct prescribed fire, how to manage the forest for deer, turkey, quail, or ducks, and many other tools that are necessary to manage the forest for the long term ... for our grandchildren.
The writer got one thing right. Protecting the quality of life of Arkansans is non-negotiable. That's why we teach and train landowners, professionals, and our children the science and practice of good forest management!
Good forest management is being practiced by the forest landowners, loggers and foresters of Arkansas. Good forest management respects and conserves our water, air, ecosystems and wildlife while it uses many tools to manage our forests.
Good forest management plans decades in advance to reach multiple landowner objectives. Good forest management is based on the best science available. Good forest management has many partners.
Arkansas has good forest management in place. Arkansas has healthy forests. We are blessed. The future is bright!
Max Braswell is executive vice president of the Arkansas Forestry Association, Joe Fox is a state forester with the Arkansas Forestry Commission, and Dr. Philip A. Tappe is dean of the School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Arkansas at Monticello and director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center.
Editorial on 03/03/2016
Print Headline: For healthy trees