[Fwd: NYTimes.com Article: A Flawed Timber Market]
redoak at forestmeister.com
Sat Mar 24 06:05:48 EST 2001
The following article is in today's NY Times and can also be seen by going to the Time's web
site. My comments are in red.
> A Flawed Timber Market
> By JIMMY CARTER
> ATLANTA -- Along with all the other former presidents, I was a strong
> supporter of the North America Free Trade Agreement when it was
> initiated in 1994. Free trade among the United States, Mexico and
> Canada has, in general, been good for the people and the economies
> of all three nations.
> However, we are now facing a crisis in the marketing of lumber
> that could be devastating to 10 million American landowners, 20,000
> sawmill owners and more than 700,000 workers, and also to the
> environment. This problem has aroused the concern of labor,
> industry and environmentalists. There are many facets to this
> complicated issue, but they can be summarized in relatively simple
> In Canada, the national and provincial governments own 95 percent
> of the timberland. In the United States, private investors own the
> overwhelming portion of woodlands. In Georgia, for instance, 70
> percent of all forest land belongs to about 600,000 private
> nonindustrial owners, most of whom are also involved in farming.
> Timber companies like Weyerhaeuser, Georgia-Pacific and
> International Paper own another 20 percent, while the remaining 10
> percent is in public ownership, as in parks and military bases.
> Rosalynn and I are typical family landowners. On our relatively
> small woodland tracts, some of which our family has owned for seven
> generations, we maintain a proper mix of hardwood and softwood
> trees for optimum wildlife habitat, and we market our timber
> selectively when it reaches full maturity. We cut relatively small
> areas at a time and replant as quickly as possible after
> harvesting. Within 10 years, we begin periodic thinning, always
> providing the best conditions for optimum growth of the next
> generation of full-grown trees.
> When we sell some mature trees, we obtain bids from sawmill
> owners, who are under contract to cut under strict conditions that
> protect the permanent value and productivity of the farm. It is an
> almost universal practice of families like ours to protect the land
> from erosion and to replant another crop immediately after harvest.
> Our sawmills must pay full market price for standing timber, saw
> and dress the lumber as efficiently as possible, and sell it on the
> retail market.
> Canada has no equivalent free market for the overwhelming portion
> of its timber. Provincial governments grant an annual allowable cut
> to sawmill owners at whatever low price is necessary to maintain
> full employment in the timber industry. These sawmills usually pay
> a fraction of the price that American sawmill owners pay, creating
> a great disparity that is beginning to wreak havoc with the timber
> industry in the United States, from the farm family that owns some
> woodland to the small or large sawmill owners who cannot compete on
> the retail market with the heavily subsidized lumber being imported
> from Canada.
I always liked Jimmy Carter- but here he's just following the American timber industry party
line. Most American woodlands have been raped and pillaged countless times. If that timber land
had been intelligently managed, the woodlots would now be growing premium quality timber, not
just lower value construction grades and pulp- the wood coming from Canada. For centuries
American mills got their timber subsidized too- they had a continent filled with "virgin"
timber that they paid next to nothing for, then later they bought timber for below cost on USFS
land and many states- and to this day, American sawmills still take advantage of small
landowners- high grading that land and paying far less than the true stumpage value because the
mills along with their cohorts in government don't want the profession of forestry to become so
advanced that all those small forest owners retain consultants who will make the mills pay fair
Another major part of this problem is that the Canadians have built state of the art sawmills-
while all those Americans who got rich pillaging American forests invested in other things.
It's ironic that the American timber industry has a history that can only be compared to
organized crime- and now these criminals are crying over cheap Canadian wood.
> These disparities between the American and Canadian timber
> industries have existed for more than 25 years. In 1996, the United
> States and Canada signed a five-year pact, which expires this
> month, that tried to limit the problem by restricting Canadian
> exports of lumber into the United States. But quotas are not the
> answer. What we need is a permanent agreement that ensures free
> trade but ends the artificial price restrictions that the Canadian
> government has put on timber. This will allow both Canadian and
> American lumber interests to compete on equal footing.
Sounds good, but it's also about time that American mills pay a fair market price for timber
they get from public land and it's time that they are no longer allowed to rape and pillage the
forests owned by those small landowners all over America. Each state should license foresters
and require that no timber harvesting be done on non industrial forest land without the forest
owner having the work directed by such a licensed forester- to ensure that those woodlands will
be able to grow high quality timber into the distant future while protecting the fiduciary
interests of the small forest owner. Of course many licensed foresters are bozos too, even here
in sophisticated Massachusetts we have licensed foresters, often in positions of authority, who
actually think high grading is a smart silvicultural operation. It will take a generation of
reeducation to overcome such ignorance.
> Without a dependable timber market in the United States, many
> landowners cannot afford to invest in reforestation and forest
> maintenance, and the consequence will be land that is barren or
> converted to other uses. The cost to society is great less carbon
> dioxide sequestered in the trees, a loss of air and water
> filtration, less green space and wildlife, and more soil erosion
> and urbanization.
> Our family has other personal income and can survive even if our
> nation's timber industry is crippled, but hundreds of thousands of
> American families depend on a fair and stable market for their
> livelihood. Their interests must be protected.
Their interests will be best protected by retaining a qualified licensed forester WORKING IN
THEIR INTERESTS, not the interests of the sawmill- such foresters will encourage the growth of
higher value timber, not just the industrial forestry scam of growing cheap pulpwood on short
rotations for the benefit of the pulp mills, as is common all over the southeast where Jimmy
The biggest problem of the American timber growers is the American timber industry which has
always been shortsighted and focused on enriching the mills at the expense of the private
forest owners and the public- with the complicity of our government foresters at all levels-
despite the phony propaganda which has so worked its way into the public consciousness, that
even very sophisticated guys like Jimmy Carter believe it. No doubt Jimmy also has gotten his
fair share of peanuts subsidies over the years.
So, the gun lobby has Charlton Heston and now the timber industry has Jimmy Carter. Too bad
Jimmy is a fool on this one. Relatively cheap lumber from Canada is good for the construction
industry and the home builder. If the American timber industry can't compete, too bad, let them
go find another racket.
> Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the Carter Center in Atlanta
Edward Abbey's Web
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