Forestry Experts Say Katrina Losses Exceed $600 Million

Kurt Guidry, Shupe, Todd F., Chaney, John A.  |  9/16/2005 1:20:10 AM

News Release Distributed 09/15/05

Forestry experts and leaders in the industry say preliminary estimates of the economic devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina exceed $600 million in timber damage and reduced prices for damaged trees.

"This is a race against the clock as crews harvest trees damaged by the storm before they deteriorate and become unusable by the industry," said LSU AgCenter economist Dr. Kurt Guidry.

LSU AgCenter experts estimate that more than 50 percent of the trees in some of the parishes in Southeast Louisiana were damaged by Hurricane Katrina. They also say only about 30 percent of those trees will be salvaged.

"The hurricane damaged many large valuable trees in southeastern Louisiana," said LSU AgCenter forest products specialist Dr. Todd Shupe, adding, "Now, many of these valuable trees will likely sell at pulpwood prices – a fraction of their previous value."

Although large-scale salvage operations are needed, high fuel prices and damage to the infrastructure in the area affected by the storm will limit the ability of loggers from outside the area to help with the salvage operation, Shupe said.

Experts say the forestry damage estimates likely will rise as communication improves in the storm-damaged area and as mills start operating and industry professionals evaluate tree losses.

Forestry is the largest agriculture crop produced in Louisiana, and its economic impact exceeds $5.3 billion, said C.A. "Buck" Vandersteen, executive director of the Louisiana Forestry Association. Wood products also is the second largest manufacturing industry in the state – employing more than 18,000 people.

Other problems landowners will have, especially in damaged tracts of land not harvested, is the buildup of tree litter, which can fuel forest fires, clog up streams and increase flooding.

To maximize the return for damaged timber, landowners are encouraged to seek the advice of a professional forester or consultant to salvage of it, Vandersteen said.

For more information on the recovery from Hurricane Katrina or other topics in agriculture, natural resources, family life and more, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Contacts:
Kurt Guidry at (225) 578-4567 or kmguidry@agcenter.lsu.edu
Todd Shupe at (225) 578-4255 or tshupe@agcenter.lsu.edu
C.A. "Buck" Vandersteen at (318) 443-2558
Writer:
John Chaney at (318) 473-6589 or jchaney@agcenter.lsu.edu

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