Timber Industry Hit Hard By Hurricane Rita - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

10/05/05 - East Texas

Timber Industry Hit Hard By Hurricane Rita

by Donna McCollum

Loggers work fast to remove downed timber from over 435 East Texas acres. All of East Texas has timber damage, but Orange, eastern Hardin, southern Jasper, and Newton Counties have the worst damage.

According to the Texas Forest Service, total stumpage value of timber damaged and affected by Hurricane Rita is 833 million dollars. This has the industry asking some serious questions. Burl Carraway with the Texas Forest Service says one of the biggest is, "What does this do to our long term timber supply for economic development?" You may not be directly connected with timber, but if you live in East Texas, you'll notice the economic impact the storm is having on the industry.

The Texas Forestry Association is forming a Rita Response Task Force. Loggers to landowners are attempting to meet the needs and concerns of an industry hit hard. Consultant Hap Hachtel said, "First off, you get emotional about it. It hurts your heart to see 30 years that we've been raising that stuff just disappear."

Time is of the essence. Twisted, mangled, broken off hard and soft woods need to be salvaged now. In order to move wood fast, the state is allowing a waiver on weight limits on log trucks thru the end of the month, but Paul Hale with the Texas Logging Council says that's not long enough. "When a guy goes in there, if he makes a deal next week, he wants to know right now if that waiver is good through the end of this wet season. So that's an important issue."

Fuel availability and costs are other obstacles. Then there's the problem of where to take it. Three major mills stand idle, waiting for restored power. There's also the threat of fire and insects. All this combined has landowners thinking twice about replanting. Tom Boggus with the Texas Forest Service said, "[These are] critical decisions for landowners as to start over or to manage what they have. Is it going to pay out in the end?" Market price will dictate the answer.

Hurricane Rita is causing the timber industry a setback, but unlikely a demise. Rep. Jim McReynolds said, "It's our way of life in East Texas. It's something we've got to do."

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