Threats to the Forest
There is concern about the Chinese gaining more control of sawmills and standing timber in the United States. This allows for the hardwood producers to have limited ability in the prices they are paid for a finished product. With the advent of more manufacturing facilities in foreign control, it diminishes the local free markets in an already-depressed lumber market. Currently approximately 40% of all lumber produced goes to China and Vietnam. The main concern, according to John, is the export of America’s raw materials. “We hope to continue as primary producers, making a value-added product here in this country, prior to exporting to the global economy. These countries obviously need a quality wood, such as maple, oak, or poplar to manufacture for their needs.” John sees this as a real threat to this country and to our local economy. “The Chinese philosophy is to cut costs and ask questions later. We do NOT need the ‘Walmart-ization’ of the hardwood lumber industry. No one wins,” John adds.
As Charles Taylor, former Congressman and timber man, said, “The Chinese are building an economy for 1 billion 300 million plus people. They have to import all sorts of things, including dairy cattle. They just bought 300,000 dairy cows. The Chinese are trying to buy all sorts of things. We lost the furniture industry to China, although most of their furniture is the lower end, cheaper variety. And the textile industry left this country too for cheaper labor. I must emphasize that forestry in this country must be based on true forestry principles, not based on some false pseudo-science, invented by an under educated person or environmentalist. The danger to our national forests is the rampant destruction by fire, insects and disease which destroy millions of acres of our forests. The danger is NOT from harvesting, which makes the forest healthier and supplies us with a low energy, renewable resource.”
Fortunately trees are a renewable resource. They provide us with much beauty and also provide much bounty. Trees help to purify and clean the air. They store carbon. Unlike steel, wood is not a finite source, but renewable and sustainable. Trees are organic and will break down in the environment, decomposing over time. Incredible Appalachian hardwood trees are native to these mountains (unlike the Western mountain ranges with their confers), and they adorn the landscape. The Appalachian Mountain range is the oldest mountain chain in North America, spanning a distance of 1,600 miles covering 14 states.
Unfortunately, there are threats to our trees and forests that cause concern. Invasive and foreign species threaten many native species. For instance, the hemlock woolly adelgid has wreaked havoc on many hemlock trees in the region, caused from a foreign insect. There is widespread “oak decline,” which mystifies many in the forestry field. Countless pine trees are ravaged by the southern pine beetle, which has left skeletons of the once-prevalent pine scattered throughout the mountains. The early Chestnut blight was caused from a non-native disease that wiped out the once-dominant American Chestnut tree, drastically altering the ecosystem. One can only imagine what the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem meant when he wrote, “Under a spreading chestnut tree.” Oriental bittersweet chokes many plants in the understory, sucking life out of native species. Certainly, there are many different threats and pressures placed on the Southern Appalachian region.
Catastrophic wild fires also threaten our forest resources. Just this summer one of the largest wildfires ever hit southwestern New Mexico and burned more than 170,000 acres in the Gila National Forest. 1,200 firemen had to battle the blaze, and acres of forest land went up in smoke. Natural disasters are certain to occur, in the form of fire, ice, wind, snow and hail storms, hurricanes and tornadoes. Man can attempt to replicate these disturbances through proactive and preventative management, hoping to minimize collateral damage to a myriad of resources. It takes science-based balance and wise planning to create and sustain a healthy and viable forest.
According to a North Carolina Forestry definition, modern management of forest stands is called silviculture. Silviculture is the art and science of producing and tending a forest; the application of forest ecology and economics in the treatment of a forest; and the theory and practice of controlling forest establishment, composition and growth. Through silviculture, we get healthy, growing trees that not only produce more wood products but do a better job for the environment than older trees whose growth has slowed.
Forests are capable of producing a variety of values such as wood, clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, recreation and aesthetic beauty. Forest stands, however, must be managed to maximize these benefits. Without management, trees often become damaged or stunted by overcrowding, disease, exposure to wind, rain and the competition for light and nutrients.