Karol B. Osborne, Morgan, Johnny W.
(03/20/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — Challenges faced by timber landowners, loggers and other forestry industry groups were the focus of a series of forums held across the state from mid-January through early March.
The LSU AgCenter hosted the meetings in West Monroe, Hammond, Alexandria, DeRidder and Shreveport.
Louisiana plants 50 million trees a year, said Louisiana Forestry Association executive director Buck Vandersteen.
“Opportunities are plentiful and continue to grow, but it all begins with a tree,” he said, emphasizing the need for market development to support industry growth.
Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said a number of issues facing the forestry industry were expected to be addressed in this year’s legislative session.
“Timber is the largest agricultural industry in Louisiana, and in many parishes, it is ‘the’ industry,” Strain said. “If you make it unprofitable in a particular parish, you will literally almost eliminate the timber industry.”
Vandersteen said conditions appear to be favorable for forest industry growth, including lowering the high insurance rates that have adversely affected the logging industry.
“I am very optimistic that good things will happen this session,” he said.
The program for each meeting was based on input from previous attendees and covered a wide range of forest industry-related topics, including current research findings, market and industry updates, and safety and best production practices.
Program topics are selected to meet specific needs identified by timber landowners and forest industry representatives from each region of the state, said AgCenter area forestry and wildlife agent Luke Stamper.
“We recognize that all forest landowners don’t have the same goals or objectives,” said AgCenter Associate Vice President Mike Salassi. “Some operations may be based solely on timber production on one end of the scale, while others may be more interested in recreation or wildlife sustainability. For our research and extension programs to be relevant, we must communicate on a regular basis.”
The AgCenter is conducting searches to fill the key positions of forestry entomologist and forest economist, Salassi said.
Landowner objectives for their property play a key role in planning timberland development for the future, and much depends on current available wood product markets in moving forward, said AgCenter forestry agent Valerie West.
AgCenter area forestry agent Whitney Wallace schedules a Florida Parishes forestry forum each spring.
“I like to focus on engaging partnerships among diverse landowners and the professionals who play a strong role in the management of our southeastern forests,” Wallace said.
Wallace’s theme for 2020 “focused on topics that addressed forestland investment and risk, ways to increase timber sales, how to use land management and cost-share programs wisely as we are presented with tough challenges in the forest industry presently,” she said.
Presentations offered at various meeting locations covered many topics, some of which included:
— Managing mixed pine and hardwood forests.
— Estate planning.
— Habitat improvement and maintenance.
— Forestland investment and risk.
— Land management and cost share programs.
— Forest insect pests.
— Herbicides and weed management.
LSU AgCenter wildlife specialist Ashley Long discusses ways to improve wildlife habitat on private land during the Florida Parishes forestry forum on Feb. 18 in Hammond. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter
LSU AgCenter forestry specialist Mike Blazier talks about managing mixed pine and hardwood forest at an LSU AgCenter forestry forum. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter