Green Horizons Newsletter - AgEBB

Green Horizons

Volume 14, Number 2
Spring 2010

After the Storm: Pioneer Forest Salvage Operations
Terry Cunningham, Pioneer Forest

Editors’ Note: Almost a year ago, a “derecho” (inland hurricane) passed through southern Missouri accompanied by tornadoes in some areas. The damage was extensive and covered thousands of acres of private, state and federal timber lands. In this installment of our ‘After the Storm’ series, we asked Pioneer Forest manager, Terry Cunningham, to give GH readers an update on their salvage operations.

Pioneer Forest is a 140,000-acre private forest located in six Ozark counties. It has been managed for nearly 60 years using uneven-aged forest management, where single-tree selection harvests average every 20 years.

Before the storm, Pioneer Forest had six active timber sales and a planned harvest of 8 million board feet (International ¼-inch) which was approximately one-half of our annual growth. After the storm, we estimated from aerial photos and ground monitoring that we had at least 22,000 acres impacted enough to salvage. The following discussion explains our salvage strategy.

Right before the May 8 storm, markets for forest products were poor and prices were declining. While cross (railroad) ties and stave logs (for barrels) were selling well, many sawmills placed quotas on their loggers. Pine markets wereextremely poor to non-existent, and demand for low-quality products (like pallets) was poor to non-existent. Pioneer Forest was selling standing timber for $170 per thousand board feet (International ¼-inch).

Even young trees with their ability to bend were no match for Mother Nature.

We estimated there were 25 million board feet of timber on the ground and we had a three-year window of time to salvage it. Immediately, we suspended harvesting of standing timber and moved our existing six contractors into salvage timber operations.

With poor markets, we knew that outside loggers would not be moving into the area, and we would instead be competing with other landowners for logging services. So, we immediately set our stumpage prices at $125 per thousand board feet, approximately half of the price for logs delivered to the mill. With pulpwood or blocking (small or defective trees) selling for $26-$29 per ton delivered to yard, we set our stumpage price at $5 per ton for this product. All loads were to be weighed or scaled. Our pricing and recruiting efforts paid off in that the number of active sales on Pioneer Forest increased from six to 24 within weeks.

As of March 1, 2010, we have salvaged over 17 million board feet and estimate to be finished in mid-summer of 2010.

The pine trees remaining in this formerly mixed oak-pine stand will allow this acre of land to remain in forest cover.

Things We Have Learned
Because it was a straight line wind, many trees have roots still connected on one side even though they are lying on the ground. As a result, they are not declining as rapidly as we expected and have remained salvageable for a longer period of time.

Many of the Ozark loggers were not set-up to utilize the smaller trees before the storm. With this material already down and in the way they were forced into marketing it. Many will continue to use this market after salvage is completed.

Additional impacts to the forest will unfold in time and will be monitored by our continuous forest inventory (CFI). Forest growth, forest health, and forest composition will most certainly be impacted by the Storm of 2009 and we will share this information as events unfold.

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