Balanced Chip Mill Report

Larry Caldwell larryc at
Sun Nov 2 02:53:39 EST 1997

In article <345a1552.15397554 at>, jostnix at wrote:

> I need a balanced, internet based, report on the chip mill issue.  I
> have found the chip industry and chip mill opponent points of view but
> no balance.

Are you talking just running a chipper here, or the pulp mill controversy?
Chips get used for a lot of things besides pulp nowdays, but the pulp
mills are what everybody objects to.

> I need a factual, non-anecdotal report that sees both sides of the
> issue.  Put it up here or e-mail me.

I doubt that you are going to find a balanced view.  You can just
edit everybody's comments together, and that's about as balanced as
you are going to get.

Pro points:

- A cash market for cull logs.  This makes good forest practices more
  profitable, and leads to upgraded timber stands.  Hybrid poplar and
  softwood plantations form another crop for local agriculture.

- Increased employment in rural areas.  A mill usually provides several
  hundred good paying jobs directly, about that many more logging and
  trucking jobs, increases the tax base and can be the economic salvation
  of depressed rural areas.

Con points:  

- Pulp mills pollute.  Bleaching wood produces dioxins, and sulfur
  emissions stink.  Modern mills have very efficient pollution controls,
  but they are not perfect.  Discharging dioxins into streams is illegal
  in the USA, but the bleached paper contains trace dioxins, as do some
  solid waste that has to be treates as hazardous.  If you're downwind
  of a pulp mill you will know it, though you can't smell them 20 miles
  away like you could 30 years ago.

- Just about any tree is suitable for chipping.  If you can knock the
  bark off of it and it's less than 50% rot, they feed it into the chipper.
  These are the wildlife habitat trees that are home to myriad small
  furry and feathered creatures.  If you chip thousands of acres of
  timber, you're going to reduce the critter population.  Some species
  (songbirds in particular) are already in serious decline.  

- Logging contributes to decline in stream quality and enhances erosion.

I think that about covers it.  There really isn't any common ground.
Which side you line up on is a straight value judgement.  Both sides
have the truth on their side, it's just a question of which truth you
find more attractive.  

If you're a hardscrabble farmer looking at putting two kids through 
college, a market for your trees can be the difference between a 
comfortable retirement and an old age spent in poverty.  If you're
an Audubon Society stalwart happy that local timber is finally
recovering from the abuse of the 19th century, a chip mill is a
real threat.

There may be political solutions and regulations that will protect
everybody's interest, but nobody has ever demonstrated that the
solutions work, and there's a lot of mistrust on both sides.  The
theoretical common ground is still terra incognita.

-- Larry

Cave ab homine unius libri.

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