On August 17 and 18, state foresters from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, along with their staffs and personnel from the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS), gathered in Biloxi, MS. This was the third State Line Meeting for state foresters Wade Dubea of Louisiana and Charlie Morgan of Mississippi, and the first for Alabama State Forester Rick Oates.
The group shared updates from their 2014 meeting and then shifted to current topics. Several SRS scientists gave brief state-of-the-knowledge presentations to kick off discussions.
Forest health: Brian Sullivan shared the current state of knowledge about southern pine beetle (SPB) controls, including chemical controls and mechanical suppression. He also discussed the knowledge gaps related to beetle outbreaks, which includes uncertainty around SPB population crashes, biology of the species during endemic periods, and causes of population shifts between endemic and epidemic levels. Brian also presented an overview of the status of emerald ash borer, red bay ambrosia beetle, and ips pine beetle.
Southern pine beetle outbreaks: John Nowak focused on the current SPB outbreak in Mississippi, including measures being taken to control the outbreak on public lands and prevent its spread to state and private lands. As a solution to the current supply issue, national forests are working with States to engage the logging and forest operations community to help move the volume of wood being removed to new markets. The Southern Region has partnered with the agency’s Geospatial Technology and Applications Center (GTAC) to develop a new remote sensing tool that will aid in identifying SPB infestation hot spots and allow ground crews to reach those areas quickly to prevent the spread to healthy trees.
Forest operations: Dana Mitchell presented a decision matrix that forest operations crews might use to determine the most efficient methods for road use, equipment ownership, and operations. A declining workforce in the the timber industry continues to be a challenge for field crews and mills. Business and forestry schools might look into training modules for logging decision support systems, which could be coupled with master logger training courses.
Timber supply effects on markets: Bill Burkman and Karen Abt presented an overview of supply and demand in the timber industry, including where mill closures are occurring, where pellet mills are increasing, and the overall shortage of mills to handle the volume and size of trees coming in to the market due to the SPB outbreak. A key outcome of the discussion was economic development. With limited capacity at mills, and a limited number of mills, the group asked, “What can we do to increase markets or create new markets?”
The group decided to form a planning team over the next several weeks and begin to draft a presentation that can be shared with the States and Southern Region. The group will bring together information about market trends and the current logging workforce.
Priorities for the planning team include opportunities for forest products industries, markets, and sustainable forests in the South; a shared understanding about economic implications of various scenarios in market conditions; and exploring forecasts for forest conditions over the next 50 years and how this affects supply to existing markets, new markets, and economies.
For more information, email Stephanie Laseter at firstname.lastname@example.org.