Enough trees to build 28,000 new houses fell down in Louisiana during Hurricane Laura

Only about 10% of the 750,000 damaged acres of timber is salvageable
Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 4:47 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Forestry is one of Louisiana’s biggest industries, with forestlands covering almost half of the state. Timber from our forestland is used for the forest product industry - the state’s second-largest manufacturing employer. However, an enormous portion of that timber is on the ground because of Hurricane Laura, which will have big impacts on Louisiana’s economy for months or even years to come.

According to estimates from the LSU Ag Center, Hurricane Laura devastated more than 750,000 acres of timber in Louisiana. Some of that damage was on public lands such as Kisatchie National Forest.

“We had a tremendous amount of damage in this area. Hundreds of trees down,” says Jonny Fryar, District Ranger for the Calcasieu District of Kisatchie National Forest.

However, privately owned land was damaged too, leaving landowners who use timber revenue to supplement retirement income with timber that will sell at salvage value instead of market value.

“It was a lifetime for many forest landowners, that cared for the land, that wanted to enjoy the benefits of a well-managed forest and earn the income from it,” says Buck Vandersteen, Executive director of the Louisiana Forestry Association.

The Louisiana Forestry Association says Laura knocked over 40 million tons of wood, that could have been turned into 2.8 billion board feet of timber.

“That is enough material to build 28,000 brand new homes,” says Vandersteen.

Because of Laura, timber mills across Louisiana will have to cope with a low inventory, and local governments will likely be running short on the severance taxes they normally collect when timber is harvested.

“There is going to be a ripple effect that will carry on 8 to 12 months from now,” adds Vandersteen.

Crews have already started trying to untangle the crisscrossed mess of fallen timber so that planters can begin planting the next forest, while also making sure the damage from Laura doesn’t become an even bigger nuisance.

“We want to make sure that the remaining standing timber is not in harm’s way from insects, wildfire, or anything else that could destroy it,” says Vandersteen.

The Louisiana Forestry Association estimates that southwest Louisiana lost more timber during Laura than the entire state harvests in one year. In Central Louisiana, Vernon Parish was the hardest hit.

As for what will happen to all that fallen timber, the LSU Ag Center has determined only 10 percent of the downed pine trees can be salvaged and none of the damaged hardwood trees are salvageable. The twisted trees are a danger to workers at the timer mills because they can turn to splinters, so most of the trees can only be made into wood pulp.

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