This report reviews how recent (2005-present) economic conditions have accelerated mill closings and job losses, and, to a lesser extent, influenced forest management in the Southern United States. We show that the number of primary roundwood-using mills has decreased across the South since the 1970s. At the same time, mill output has increased as the production of the remaining mills has increased. In recent years, with economic conditions unfavorable and mill output decreasing, mill closings have been on the rise. Particularly hard hit have been sawmills, largely due to the precipitous decline in housing starts. There are indications that recent economic conditions are affecting the South’s timberland management. We show that for many years timberland and wood volumes have been stable or increasing across the South. There has been a decrease in the number of acres harvested but an increase in the removed volume from those decreasing acres. Although the harvested acreage is decreasing, treated acreage concurrently is increasing, a trend that indicates that landowners are postponing final harvest, perhaps in anticipation of improved market conditions while investing in management activities that maintain and increase the value of their timberlands.
Brandeis, Thomas J.; Hartsell, Andrew J.; Bentley, James W.; Brandeis, Consuelo. 2012. Economic dynamics of forests and forest industries in the Southern United States. e-Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS–152. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 77 p.