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Vulcan Materials Underwrites Family Forest Carbon Program

Trees thrive on carbon dioxide, and families independently own most trees in the U.S. Why not reward those families for reducing carbon in the atmosphere?

That’s the thinking behind the Family Forest Carbon Program, and Alabama’s Vulcan Materials Co., the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates, will provide funding for the FFCP’s pilot program, which begins in California and Pennsylvania.

Birmingham-based Vulcan Materials Company has joined the American Forest Foundation and the Nature Conservancy in supporting this new effort to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The FFCP incentivizes individual and family forest owners to adopt forest management practices that improve forest health.

Families own 290 million acres of America’s forests, more than state or federal governments and the forest industry, and many face cost as a barrier in managing their forestland. These forests represent a landmass the size of California and Texas combined.

Vulcan will provide funding for the FFCP to expedite family forest owner outreach and enable family forest owners to take action on their land in pilot program.

The FFCP represents a new approach to climate change mitigation that taps into the carbon storage potential of family-owned forestland while creating a new market and source of income for the families that dedicate time and effort to their forest management.

Research published by The Nature Conservancy and 21 other institutions in Science Advances demonstrates that nature-based solutions, like the FFCP, can help absorb one-fifth of the carbon pollution produced in the United States. This is equivalent to the emissions from every U.S. passenger vehicle.

A Shortage of Loggers Looms in the U.S.

Dr. Tom Gallagher

What is the national outlook for filling logging jobs?

The national outlook is not positive at this time. The younger generation is not interested in working in the woods, partly because of not being aware and partly because it is a tough environment. Several programs are being implemented to address the first reason, such as one by the Alabama Forestry Association called ForestryWorks, which has free classes designed to recruit and train equipment operators. Several other states, especially in the Southeast, are also developing programs.

However, I do not know of any mills that are not receiving enough wood to meet their demands. We are just observing many loggers and equipment operators at the end of their careers, and the industry is concerned with who will step up and take over harvesting.

Has the timber industry faced this type of shortage in the past?

Not in modern times, because mechanization has been very beneficial to our industry. Fifty years ago, three men working together toiled to produce maybe 25 tons/day. Now three men in harvesting equipment produce 300-plus tons/day of products. So we have greatly reduced the need for woods workers. But we have reached a peak on equipment efficiency, so that solution has somewhat played out. And we still need a new generation of operators and loggers, and the industry is not seeing the influx of people stepping up to the table.

How would a shortage of loggers affect timber production?

It would obviously hurt any timber consuming mill if they did not get the amount of timber needed to run (pulp mills, sawmills, oriented strand board (OSB) plants, pellet operations, pallet mills, etc.). A shortage of loggers will make prices rise, just like any commodity with a supply-and-demand situation. The fewer loggers would demand more payment for their services which would be passed on to the consumer.

What types of equipment do loggers operate now compared to 20 or 30 years ago? Do they need more advanced skills?

In the Southeast, most loggers run a tree-length operation. They use a feller-buncher to cut the tree and place it in bunches; a skidder to pull those bunches to the deck or landing; and then a trailer-mounted, knuckleboom loader to process the trees for the market(s) they are delivering to and load them onto trucks. Jobs in the woods have become less laborious and more finesse. The controls to the machines are usually joysticks. So while I would not call it “advanced skills,” you do need to be able to multitask equipment capabilities into a productive machine flow. That is what the new ForestryWorks program is intended: to teach operators how to be productive with the equipment in a safe manner. While the class is only 4-6 weeks long (just enough time for the basics), it will usually take several months before an operator is proficient.

Who Owns Alabama’s Forests?

Stephen Burdette

What types of owners are there in Alabama, owners of forestland?
Burdette: There are varied forest landowners of Alabama’s 23 million acres of timberland, 94 percent of which is privately owned, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission. These owners range from industrial owners (6 percent) to private owners (88 percent) and includes individuals, families, Timber Investment Management Organizations (TIMO), Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT), and forest industry companies.

Are there still people who buy land directly as an investment, rather than investing in an REIT or in an ETF (exchange-traded fund) that is forest-based?
Burdette: Yes, individual investors still by land directly as an investment. REITs and TIMOs own about one quarter of the privately-owned timberland in the Southeast, according USDA Forest Service information. The rest is owned by other entities, such as individuals, families, businesses, and forest industry companies. Forestland is bought and sold all the time. There are currently thousands of listings for forestland on the open market being marketed to the public for private ownership.

What percentage of Alabama timber owners are owners of relatively small holdings?
Burdette: About 75 percent of forestland owners possess 40 acres or less, according to USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Resource Bulletin SRS-146 – Alabama’s Forests, 2005.

What are the biggest holdings in the state? Who owns them?
Burdette: Information on ownership of land is kept in each county’s records and many owners own property in multiple counties. Therefore, it requires much research to find who is the largest forest owner in Alabama and that information is not readily available. Some of the larger landowner’s in Alabama are Weyerhaeuser, Hancock, Resource Management Services, Westervelt, Dudley. These are primarily industry owners, REITs and TIMOs.

What are the interests/motivations of a small acreage owner of forest land?
Burdette: From my perspective, the typical small acreage owner is interested in two things: recreational use (hunting, fishing, ATV, hiking, etc.) and income from the sale of products produced from their forest. Both are important to most owners of timberland, but all have their own unique goals for owning land.

At what size of acreage is it compelling to have a professional forest manager or management plan?
Burdette: Stewardship plans have been written for holdings as small as 10 acres. From a practical standpoint of timber management, 20 acres is about small an area as can be managed for timber production by a professional forester. The key factor is timber volume. The questions buyers ask is whether there is enough volume on the tract to allow an operator to work for a week or more without moving again. This is due to the cost of moving the required equipment to and from the site.

American Forest Management, a land management and forestry consulting company, has two offices in Alabama — Prattville and Russellville.

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