AN EXAMPLE FROM THE SOUTH.
JOHN L. KAUL,
My acquaintance with the southern pine belt has extended over a period of seventeen years. During that time I have constantly observed the deplorable effect upon the forests of lumbering without regard to the future. My experience with the actual application of forestry to longleaf pine lands, however, has been limited to the tracts in which I am particularly interested. These lands are located in central Alabama, and comprise mainly a forest of pure longleaf pine.
* * * The company had lumbered about 25,000 acres in a county adjoining that in which a portion of its present holdings are located, and where conditions are very similar. These cut-over lands had no value for agriculture, and were without satisfactory market value for other purposes. Their best use is for the growing of timber. A large amount of small timber was left standing after lumbering, because it did not pay to handle it. As a result, however, of ordinary methods of logging the timber thus left was not sufficient in amount nor in a condition to promise another cut within a reasonable time and was an absolute waste.
* * * Actual measurement of the forest on 5 per cent of the lands developed the fact that by curtailing the present cut by less than 20 per cent, the company could, after twenty years, again obtain an amount equal to 45 per cent of the present cut. This, at the present value of stumpage, figuring at compound interest, is a 2 per cent investment; but assuming a rise in stumpage value to $5, it is a 6 per cent investment. Should the value of stumpage reach $10 per thousand, which we confidently believe will be the case, the value of the timber in twenty years' time will represent a return of 10 per cent.
* * * Up to a comparatively recent date the value of pine stumpage in the South was exceedingly low; means of transportation to market were unsatisfactory; the market itself was restricted and uncertain, and competition with northern pine was keen. Of late years, however, the development of southern timberlands has been phenomenal. The growing scarcity of longleaf pine and the steadily increasing demand for it render certain a further rise in its stumpage value. Many lumbermen who acquired stumpage at 50 cents per thousand now credit it in their operations with $2.50 to $3.50, and believe that in twenty years it will have a value of at least $10 per thousand. This probable rise in the value of stumpage is the obvious reason for the existence of companies which hold large timber tracts but do not operate them.
* * * I am free to confess that I turned to forestry with some doubts. I was not entirely sure that its policy, admirable in the abstract, concerns itself sufficiently with business considerations to be of real use to the actual operator. But in taking up, on our own ground, the forest problems which confronted us, the Bureau of Forestry has demonstrated, on our tract at least, the eminently practical character of its work.
Last Updated: 01-Apr-2008