By Paul D. Barnard

I would like to clear up some misconceptions/misinformation and provide another perspective to the “Forestry Management” article. [Click here to read the “Forestry Management” report.] As background, I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Forest Management from the University of Arkansas, Monticello.   I personally managed thousands of acres of timberland across Arkansas, Alabama, and Florida a number of years ago when I was a Registered Forester and forestry consultant.  I also performed contract work for timber companies, and government and private landowners in areas of timber appraisals, timber sales, damage appraisals, and land surveys.

According to the article, Jeff Berry of Green Bay Packaging company was quoted as saying about pine trees ” It has a lifespan. Most people think it will live for hundreds of years. It won’t. Pine especially, you are looking at 30 to 60 years.”  This is preposterous.   The majority of pine trees in HSV are shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) with the exception of the East End of the Village which is mostly planted Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda).  I’ll quote my old Dendrology textbook by Dr. Harlow & Dr. Harrar in writing about Shortleaf Pine, “Maturity is reached in about 170 years, while very old trees may reach the four-century mark”.  400 YEARS OLD!!!   And about Loblolly it reads “Loblolly matures in about 150 years, while old trees may pass the three-century mark”  I have personally counted tree rings in the west part of the village and the age was well over 100.  In terms of the 30-60 year life span that was mentioned in this article, that is more likely the age that the paper companies recommend clear-cutting the remaining trees and starting over due to their economic models and return on investment.  But Pine trees live WAY LONGER than the article suggested.

Most timber companies have traded the natural Shortleaf Pine stands for Loblolly because it grows faster but Shortleaf lives longer, and is less susceptible to disease and insect infestations, wind damage,  ice damage, and fire.   Numerous studies have proven this.  The acreage of Shortleaf Pine in Arkansas has decreased over the years as timber companies replaced it with the faster-growing Loblolly Pine.  This is a shame.  But the state of Arkansas has recently instituted two programs designed to INCREASE the acreage of Shortleaf Pine because it produces such highly coveted lumber. 

As far as the IPS beetle infestation that occurred on the eastern side of the village – that occurred in planted Loblolly pine.  The stand should have been thinned years ago and had become overly dense putting those trees in a weakened state.  But don’t confuse planted Loblolly Pine with natural stands of old-growth Shortleaf Pine.  Those planted pine plantations are still overcrowded in many areas but I’m guessing most are on private lots.  Ips breakouts in old-growth Shortleaf are rare and if it occurs, contained to small areas.

I’m also skeptical that 75% of POA land is overpopulated with trees.  While there are pockets of areas where a light thinning could be possible, it is mostly scattered across private lots.  I’d like to see some Basal Area plot numbers to see just how overpopulated it actually is.  Maybe it is, maybe not.  Has anyone performed a timber “cruise” to estimate how much timber is actually here and the volume per acre or basal area?  I’m guessing no.

Keep in mind that a pulp and paper company such as Green Bay Packaging is looking to produce VOLUME as quickly as possible.   They are in the market for pulpwood for their mill, not sawlogs.  That is why they and most all timber companies typically plant Loblolly and after about 40 years they clearcut and start again.   They need pulpwood and I would be very skeptical of any management arrangement.  Personally, I believe landowners typically get more than their money’s worth by hiring a reputable consultant and I have seen countless examples of this.  Timber is selectively marked with a paint gun, the timber volume calculated as they mark and then sold to the highest bidder amongst a number of timber companies.  Prices will vary wildly depending on which mill needs timber at that time and the type of timber being sold.  Premium timber will garner a lot of interest and many bids because it is extremely rare these days.  In my experience, a consultant’s fee will be more than offset by increased dollar revenue and the end result of the thinning will be much better.

The majority of our Shortleaf Pine timber is PREMIUM TIMBER.  It is OLD GROWTH, with tight growth rings, and dense wood with few limbs (knots).  Pine pulpwood (small timber chopped up for paper) is going right now for about $5/ton whereas Pine sawlogs are about $28/ton…and this is an average across all sawlogs, not just premium quality.  Our old-growth Shortleaf Pine is large in diameter and tall with little taper and few limbs in most cases.  It is tight-grained so it won’t warp like the fast-growing Loblolly stuff you buy at the lumber yard these days and it resists termites because of its density and natural turpentine qualities.  Mills typically will pay anywhere from $4 to $13 per ton premium for high-quality timber.  Our old-growth Shortleaf Pines would be ideal for specialty mills producing premium lumber or plywood.  On the flip side, we could likely be talking about small areas, a small total volume with the need for smaller equipment which will reduce the price paid. 

We villagers LIVE in this forest and growth is not necessarily the objective but beauty.  It needs to be healthy, yes but growth is not the objective.  Also, realize that in any logging operation several things will occur.  Some residual trees will be skinned up (scarred) by the logging.  You will see limbs, tree top debris, and smaller saplings lying on the ground afterward and it won’t be pretty for a year or two.   In addition, studies have shown that after timber stands are thinned, they are much more susceptible to ice damage if there is a major ice storm. 

Lastly, before any logging is done there should be an impact study of what plants/wildlife will be impacted by the logging.  I say this because there are a number of areas in Hot Springs Village where very rare plants grow.  I have found numerous areas here where Kentucky Lady’s Slippers (Cypripedium kentuckiense) grow which is considered a rare wildflower and tracked by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission.  In one very unique area, I found a plant called Two Leaf Miterwort (Mitella diphylla).  This plant has only been seen in two very northern counties of Arkansas along the Missouri border prior to this find and is also a tracked plant.  In another area I have found Bigleaf Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia grandifolia).  This is a beautiful and unusual wildflower typically found in the Ozarks and has been found in only one other location in the Ouachita Mountain region near the Oklahoma border.  I have many other examples but my point is that we live in a VERY unique and beautiful area.  There are many locations inside the gates in which rare and tracked plants exist.  Much of our land area has not been disturbed for 50+ years.  True it isn’t growing at a rate that timber companies (especially paper companies) would want but it harbors a unique ecosystem that we should be very sensitive to and strive to protect.