CHILDERSBURG, AL – AUGUST 3, 2018: Rick Nelms, 57, surveys a final harvest of Loblolly Pine on a tract located 50 miles outside of Birmingham.
Nelms, a private forestry consultant, is hired by landowners, appraisers and banking institutions alike to evaluate and oversee timber harvests, which supply the raw material needed by various mills in the region to create everything from paper products and furniture to telephone poles and plywood. “We can grow timber pretty fast down here to supply the demand for wood fiber,” Nelms said. “The big problem with Southern Yellow Pine though is there’s not enough competition for it. There’s too much supply for the demand.” Nelms, who has been working in the industry for over thirty years, says landowners used to get $500 for an acre of “thinning” – the partial removal of timber intended to improve the growth and value of the residual stand. “Now, it’s around $150 per acre,” Nelms said. “The trouble is it’s 15 years before you know if it’s a good idea or not. So as soon as that tree hits the ground it gets complicated in a hurry. Years ago, it was a pretty good investment. Now people just don’t want to do it. And some people are hung, because that’s all they got.” CREDIT: Bob Miller for The Wall Street Journal