The Politics of Forestry- was- Re: State Forestry

Ron Wenrich woodtick at
Mon Jan 5 00:51:18 EST 1998

Larry Caldwell wrote:

> The only individuals reliably practicing long term forest management are
> the much-maligned industrial forest corporations.  Stockholders come and
> go, but at least a corporation has a chance of living as long as a tree
> and reaping the profit of their work.

I would think that public lands would also be managed on a long-term basis.  Fed land falls more
to the whims of politicians; however, state lands don't seem to be as politicized (at least in
PA).  Larger amounts of other resources come off these lands, i.e. recreation, water quality and

> > >Landowners are really missing the boat as a market force.  They are too fragmented to make
> > >much difference in timber supply.  Landowners should unite and co-op for services.  The
> > >landowner only receives about 10% of the final market price for their resource.  No wonder
> > >they feel like they are getting ripped off!  In Sweden, the landowner association even owns
> > >their own sawmill.
> I've never heard of a market where timber prices were that depressed.
> Around here you can buy an economy 2x4x8 ( five and a third bf ) for
> $1.50.  That works out to $280/mbf.  Stumpage prices are running about
> $600 to $650/mbf.  It's pretty obvious that they're milling the economy
> lumber out of overrun, but it's also obvious that the timber seller
> isn't getting ripped off.  Any rancher in the USA would be tickled
> pink to be selling his cattle for 2.5 times the retail price of stew
> meat or hamburger.

Red oak lumber is retailing for $5.25/bf.  Stumpage prices are in the 400-600 range.   The economy
stud is not 5 1/3 bf, it is 3 1/2 bf. (actual wood).  Nominal sizes in softwoods are not the same
as in hardwoods.  8/4 lumber is cut 2 1/8 inch.  Basically, a 2x4 is the same thickness as 6/4
hardwood lumber.  That's why there is so much more overrun in softwoods as compared to hardwoods.
I know there is a lot of value added from the time of cutting to finished product.  But, there are
a great deal of middlemen involved in the lumbering process, especially in hardwoods.  Often there
are 2 middlemen involved just to get the logs to the mill.

> > Here again I was given to believe the UK was the worst in repect of
> > lowest standing prices and highest finished goods prices with lots of
> > Mr. Tenpercenters in between.
> It's interesting how a discussion among foresters devolves to a discussion
> of stumpage prices.  I know a few small landowners who are raising stumps,
> but not many.  Almost all small woodland owners view timber production
> as a secondary consideration.  From their standpoint, they're doing a better
> job of land management than the foresters think they are.

That is the point that is being missed by foresters.  All forest land is managed in some respect,
but, you must consider that non-management is a form of management and is sometimes more palatable
to the small landowner.  The big rift between landowners and foresters is that foresters think
that all land should be more intensely managed to produce more timber products.  Timber is just a
by-product of land ownership for many small landowners.  Every time a landowner hears forest
management, they think timber harvest (and rightly so, in the East).  When a landowner balks at

the idea of harvesting, the forester thinks the landowner has no interest in managing their land.
The landowner is interested, just not on the foresters terms.  Foresters must recognize there is a
difference between land management and forest management.

> The extension agents and service foresters might be giving the small tract
> owners what they want.  With all due respect to Massachusetts tree hugging
> hippie capitalist foresters, I might hire a forester to manage a timber
> sale, but I'm not going to hire one to manage my life.  I'm not sure that
> consulting foresters are in the same game that service foresters and
> extension agents are in.

  I would put procurement foresters in the same genre as consulting foresters.  Both seem to be
more interested in the harvest.  I always felt that good management is more with what remains in
the woods than what is taken to the log siding.


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