Monday, December 13, 2010

Virginia Timber Sales Post Slight Increase

After two straight years of significant declines (a drop of 40 percent since 2006) in the value of timber harvested on their properties, forest landowners in the Commonwealth saw the value increase six-tenths of one percent last year, according to officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry.

“While it’s not anywhere near where we want it to be, we did see a turnaround in 2009,” said Carl Garrison, state forester of Virginia. “Landowners received more than $208 million last year – about $1.4 million more than in the year 2008. While it’s a far cry from the $347 million they received in 2006, we’re hopeful that the increases will continue.”

Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore said, “Governor McDonnell has tasked me with the job of sustaining and growing Virginia’s forest industry as part of his focus on economic development. While it is good news that Virginia’s private forest landowners are starting to see an increase in the market value of their products, we must continue to do all we can to support our highly valued, existing industry, which employs 144,000 Virginians. We must also work to attract new forest industry jobs to the Commonwealth, so that forestry continues to be a $27.5 billion economic engine for rural Virginia.”

Charles Becker, VDOF’s utilization and marketing manager, said, “Based on forest products tax receipts, the volume of both hardwoods and pines harvested in 2009 was the lowest in 34 years. There were 406 million board feet of pine and 529 million board feet of hardwood harvested last year. We haven’t seen totals like that since 1975. But it’s a good news/bad news thing. On the one hand, while pine harvests were down 17 percent from 2008 and hardwood harvests were down 19.5 percent during the same period, the total value landowners received for the timber harvested in 2009 actually increased six-tenths of one percent over the year before. So, Virginia’s forest landowners are seeing some better prices for their timber.”

Becker said an unfavorable economy; lower demand for wood products, and the closing of several mills in Virginia have contributed to the decline in the volume of timber harvested during the past couple of years.

Randy Bush, president of the Virginia Forest Products Association, noted that the majority of his association’s members report the current economic situation has been the most severe in their memories. “Normally, with most economic cycles, our industry is the ‘first one in’ and the ‘first one out’ of a recession,” he said. “This cycle has not been typical, however, and we have yet to see a significant movement out of the downturn, although some areas are showing a small improvement.”

Note: Attached is a spreadsheet that details by county and/or city the volumes harvested and the value of that harvest for 2009. The list is ordered by total harvest value – highest to lowest. MBF means thousand board feet. CDS means number of cords of wood. V is value in dollars.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fall Fire Season Ends

Several large fires spiked the amount of burned forestland this season, according to officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF).
From Oct. 15, 2010 through Nov. 30, 2010, a total of 63 wildland fires burned 2,586 acres of forestland in Virginia.  Fifty-seven homes and 34 other structures were protected during fire suppression efforts.  No homes were damaged during the fall fire season but three other structures were damaged.
“This year, sporadic wet weather did help keep the overall number of fires down,” said John Miller, VDOF’s director of resource protection. “Of the fires we did have, four were more than 100 acres in size and two were greater than 300 acres. These are big fires, and it’s worth noting that 57 homes were directly protected from wildfire damage as a result of our efforts. VDOF is very fortunate to have skilled personnel with great expertise along with the unwavering cooperation of Virginia's volunteer and structural fire services.”
Regular rainfall was typical of the 2009 fall fire season, when the Commonwealth experienced 25 fires that burned 638 acres.
Miller reminds everyone that just because the “official” fall fire season has ended, it doesn’t mean that wildland fires can’t still occur – they can. So continue to take great care anytime you use fire in or near Virginia’s woodlands. And pay special attention to the ashes from your fireplace and/or woodstove as they can retain enough heat to ignite a fire several days later. Put the ashes in a metal can, slowly stir in water, and keep them in the metal can for at least three days before dumping them out.