Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on October 27, 2005. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Guidelines offered for timber salvage
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Landowners trying to decide if they should clear-cut Katrina-damaged timber stands or try to salvage what is left have some help with their decision.
Trey DeLoach, a Mississippi State University Extension Service forester at the Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Raymond, said the Extension Service developed a set of guidelines to help landowners assess their timber stands.
“These guidelines take some of the focus off strictly what's down and help them focus on what's still standing,” DeLoach said. “It helps landowners decide what they need to do with the whole stand.”
The guidelines ask three questions. The first asks if there is a manageable timber stand left undamaged. This is answered by calculating the density in terms of basal area, or the amount of square feet per acre that is covered by trees.
“Basal area is based on the diameter of the individual trees,” DeLoach said. “A 14-inch-diameter tree covers about 1 square foot of land.”
According to the guidelines developed, a landowner has an understocked but manageable stand if 50 square feet or more of timber is undamaged. If 40 square feet or less are standing, the land is very understocked, but it can possibly be managed.
“If this is the case, you should probably hold the timber for about a year and then try to sell it,” DeLoach said. “You may be able to do some rehabilitation and make some timber stand improvements to give it the best chance of success before sale.”
If less than 30 square feet of timber is left per acre, there is not enough to manage as a stand. Landowners may delay harvest, but very little can be salvaged from this land.
The next question DeLoach said landowners should ask is if they have enough undamaged timber to make a sale in the future when prices are better.
“The threshold we use is if there is 15 tons of saw timber and/or 25 tons of pulpwood per acre, you have an economically feasible harvest for both the landowner and the logger,” DeLoach said. “If you don't have that much undamaged timber, then you're probably not going to get anyone to come in because you don't have enough volume for an economically feasible harvest.”
The last question concerns salvaging the damaged timber. It uses the same thresholds of 15 tons of saw timber and/or 25 tons of pulpwood per acre. If this amount of timber is on the ground, then it is worth bringing in a salvage company. If less volume is down, salvage will not be feasible and the landowner immediately should make plans to replant.
“You need to move pretty quickly because there is a six- to nine-month window of opportunity for salvage,” DeLoach said.
He said a blue stain fungus is already attacking some timber on the ground. The fungus does not hurt the quality of the wood, but stains it blue, limiting its retail value in lumberyards. Other factors affecting the value of wood on the ground include disease, insects and drying.
“The wood is becoming less and less valuable the longer it lays there,” DeLoach said.
Bob Daniels, Extension forestry specialist, said Hurricane Katrina knocked an estimated two years of harvest to the ground, costing the industry about $1.2 billion.
“We've been knocked down, but we're getting organized and back up, and salvage is under way,” Daniels said.
Before Katrina, standing pine saw timber sold for $41.88 a ton, pine chip and saw for $23.35 a ton, pine pulpwood for $8.07 a ton, hardwood saw timber for $22.98 a ton and hardwood pulpwood for $7.49 a ton. Daniels said timber prices in the region after the hurricane are reportedly half of what they had been. See Extension Service timber pricing information .
“The market prices have dropped in the damaged area and are likely to be down for a while,” Daniels said. “After the salvage is over, we're likely to see a price increase.”
Daniels urged landowners to get what they could for timber lying on the ground, but if possible, hold living trees for harvest about a year from now when prices are expected to be better.
An organized effort is encouraging owners of portable sawmills to conduct salvage in the damaged area, either on a contract or volunteer basis. A database has been established linking those with portable sawmills with those who need timber cut. More information is available at http://msrcd.org/katrina.htm.