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Multitude of factors determine if, and when, trees will fall
By Jeff Aydelette | Staff Writer
PAMLICO COUNTY – Still far from a peak reached during the house-building boom of yesteryear, prices for saw timber and pulpwood are up slightly, which partially explains the rampant and pervasive clear-cutting that has hit our area in recent months.
Bossy Hardison, a lifelong county resident, who oversees Pamlico County for the North Carolina Forest Service, is one of those who believe timber harvesting may have reached a tipping point.
“I am concerned about the quality of life for our area,” said Hardison, during a brief interview Wednesday. “We need a balance of farmland and timber, and we are losing our base.”R.C. King, a veteran forestry consultant based in New Bern, says much of the timber cutting is coming from forest-products conglomerate Weyerhaeuser, Pamlico County’s largest landowner. And, once crews deploy the heavy equipment required to harvest, it makes economic sense to cut as much as possible before picking up and moving.
Some estimates put the per week haul from Pamlico County at 400 to 500 loads, with each truck carrying forest cargo of approximately 25 tons.
“It runs in cycles,” said King. “We’re probably cutting more trees than we have in the last four or five years.”
Fees paid to private landowners are way down from lucrative years when King could promise $45 to $60 per ton.“Now we are getting less than $25 per ton,” explained King, which he added is often insufficient to formally re-seed an area. Many landowners rely upon Mother Nature, given an assist when a few large trees are left with their spring seed sown by strong breezes and wind.
“Once you cut the timber, it doesn’t look good as an investment anymore,” said King. “Landowners have decided that (good) prices are not coming back. We used to tell people that they could expect a return of 5 to 6 percent per year – and I’ve had a lot of people reminding me of that. People are probably cutting their timber now to pay for college educations and that type of thing.”