NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Logging Controversy Goes South

September 27, 1999

The controversies which pitted environmentalists against logging interests in the Pacific Northwest earlier this decade are moving to Southeastern states -- with some notable differences, however.

In the Northwest, the federal government owned much of the land and could side with environmentalists out to save such species as the spotted owl. But in the South, more than 85 percent of timberland is in private hands and loggers aren't required to check for endangered species -- or even to notify most state authorities before cutting.

Another difference stems from the type of trees grown in the South and the nature of the logging business there.

  • Whereas massive hardwoods used for planks are characteristic of the Northwest, the South has an abundance of pines and other softwoods -- as well as smaller-diameter hardwoods -- which are fed to "chip mills" where they are ground up and eventually made into paper.
  • Smaller landowners welcome the chance to supplement their farm incomes by inviting logging companies in -- angering environmentalists who charge that the chip mills encourage clear-cutting.
  • Indeed, the U.S. Forest Service last month halted logging at a national forest in North Carolina after environmentalists turned up two dozen Indiana bats -- a species on the endangered list.
  • After the federal government drastically curtailed logging in the Pacific Northwest, the forest-products industry transferred many operations to southern states -- since 1985 the number of chip mills has tripled to about 156 in the 13-state southern region.

The federal government reports that as of the mid-1990s, 3.4 billion cubic feet of hardwoods were removed in the region annually -- while about 4.78 billion grew. All sides agree that logging rates have increased sharply, but there are no figures as to how much.

Legal and political skirmishes have broken out -- with environmentalists this spring chaining themselves to a chip mill's crane in North Carolina. When neighbors complained after a 69-year-old North Carolina woman had 180 acres of her hardwood forest cleared, she responded, "It's nobody else's business."

Source: Dean Starkman, "Forget Spotted Owls, Clear-Cutting in South Is Latest Forestry Flap," Wall Street Journal, September 27, 1999.


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