USA — The Texas Forest Service estimated this week that the recent wildfire damaged 20.8 million cubic feet of timber as it burnt 18,960 acres across Montgomery, Grimes and Waller Counties.
That timber would have been worth $12.8 million alone, and might have spurred $420 million in economic activity, TFS said in a release. TFS estimates that wildfires have destroyed $97 million worth of timber in East Texas this year.
Daniel Dean, who started his own logging and timber business 20 years ago while still a student at Magnolia High School, says the fires will deepen the long-term damage that drought and a poor housing market have already done to the timber industry.
“The price of timber is down to begin with,” Dean said. “Timber deals that I’ve worked on in the past three years that were wanting to wait until the price of timber goes up, now they’re going to have to choose to cut the timber.”
“The landowner gets less money, I’m going to get less money, and that’s less timber that will be available for us to cut in the future,” Dean added.
The only benefit Dean expects to see is a short-term jump in property owners asking his company to salvage properties where already weakened trees may have now been exposed to scorching heat.
“We probably have a 60- to 120-day window to get out there and salvage the timber before it dries out and it’s no good,” he said. “We used to pay anywhere from $500 to $700 for a load of logs, but now the prices are down to maybe $200 or $300 a load.”
Even when housing prices do rebound and boost up the timber industry, people like Dean will have less to work with.
“It’s sad to see how many trees are dying, especially the hardwood trees, because those have shallow roots,” he said.
In its release this week, the Forest Service said that forest industries, including logging and mills, funneled $116 million into the collective economies of Grimes, Waller and Montgomery Counties in 2007, employing 550 people with a payroll of about $24 million.