COLLEGE STATION, TX (News Release) - East Texas is deeply rooted in the timber industry and during the last 10 months, wildfires have wiped out more than $97 million worth of the region's trees.
Since wildfire season began on Nov. 15, 2010, firefighters have responded in East Texas to 2,151 wildfires that charred 207,763 acres and destroyed 175 million cubic feet of timber, according to Texas Forest Service economists and analysts. The value of all those trees as they stood in the forest — a figure also known as stumpage value — was $97 million.
The total volume of all that timber could have produced $1.6 billion worth of different forest products — such as homes, furniture and paper — and would have resulted in a $3.4 billion total economic impact in East Texas.
"Along with the heavy toll on people and property, these fires have significantly damaged the forestland — and the forest sector as a whole — in East Texas," said Chris Edgar, a forest resource analyst with Texas Forest Service. "It's a tremendous loss for the East Texas timber industry."
The devastation isn't just financial. It's also ecological. Edgar said the wildfires ultimately could alter the forest's ability to perform essential functions like sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, providing clean water, preventing soil erosion and providing habitat for wildlife.
Texas Forest Service economists and analysts have been studying wildfires that raged through East Texas earlier this month. Below are their findings.
Bear Creek Fire
The largest wildfire in East Texas history, the Bear Creek Fire burned for almost two weeks earlier this month, scorching 40,979 acres and destroying 66 homes in Cass and Marion counties. The wildfire also charred 17.3 million cubic feet of timber, which had a stumpage value of $8.8 million. That volume of timber could have produced $159 million worth of forest products, which would've spurred $349 million in economic activity in East Texas.
In 2007, forest industries funneled $427 million into the economy in Cass and Marion counties while employing 1,330 people with a payroll of $72 million.
Angelina River Bottom Fire
The Angelina River Bottom Fire burned for almost a week earlier this month, charring 6,554 acres in Nacogdoches and Cherokee counties. The wildfire destroyed 2.9 million cubic feet of timber, which had a stumpage value of $1.5 million. That volume of timber could have produced $27 million worth of forest products, which would've spurred $59 million in economic activity in East Texas.