Wood pellet manufacturers good news for loggers

Published 9:31 am Saturday, July 30, 2011

Editor’s Note: This is the final story in a six-part series that focused on the growing wood pellet industry in northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia.

FRANKLIN—Local loggers might breathe a little easier now.

Wood pellet manufacturing facilities planned for Franklin, other areas of southeast Virginia and Ahoskie, N.C., will give loggers a market for hardwood pulpwood that had been lacking recently.

“It definitely helps us out,” said Paul Burby, whose Carolina East Forest Products in Ahoskie buys and harvests timber. “It’s going to be really big.”

Burby, who owns hardwood and pine, said an increase in the hardwood market would lead to a less costly replanting of pine, which would also greatly benefit loggers.

Without a market for hardwood that type of timber was left on the ground and made replanting of pine forests tougher, Burby said.

Loggers have been hit hard recently by the recession and the closure of the International Paper mill, said Terry Godwin, a Franklin-based forester with Gelbert, Fullbright and Randolph in Raleigh, N.C.

The possibility of having more options for hardwood will indirectly benefit Adam Moore Logging of Zuni. Owner Adam Moore said 90-95 percent of his business is pine; however, an expanding market for hardwood would put less pressure on the pine market, as more loggers would be lured back to hardwood from pine.

“More markets for hardwood pulpwood will have a positive impact on pine production and usage in the area,” Godwin said. “Whenever you have a situation where a certain forest product is limited due to markets, all other products will suffer to some degree.”

The recent announcements will also help drive up the price of hardwood, which will benefit landowners as well, Godwin said.

“The new market will allow landowners to get paid more for the hardwood pulpwood,” he said. “The current market for the product is half of what it was two years ago.”

While the operation in Ahoskie is a positive step for the hardwood industry, the consumption is only a “drop in the bucket” when compared to the amount of hardwood produced, Godwin said.

The hope is that more facilities will eventually open and expand the market even more, but the possibility of more plants will not impact the area’s wood resources in a negative way.

Even possible consumption from Franklin Pellets, a pellet operation that is looking into repurposing a portion of the shuttered IP mill, and consumption from Enviva Biomass in Ahoskie won’t come close to threatening the resource from an environmental standpoint.

“We are fortunate in this area that the hardwood resource is so abundant that Enviva’s consumption plus a potential facility in Franklin will not even consume all of the growth that is added each year, much less tap into the growing stock.”