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Texas timber industry takes a $97 million hit from wildfires

An engine at the Nolan County Complex sprays water on mesquite pile earlier this summer. PHOTO COURTESY STEVE PAES. Click on the image to see more photos from the Texas wildfires at the Inciweb Gallery.

175 million cubic feet of timber up in smoke

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with causing several deaths and burning thousands of homes, the latest round of wildfires in east Texas has destroyed almost $100 million worth of timber, resulting in economic costs far beyond the immediate cost of fighting fires and the value of the destroyed homes, the Texas Forest Service reported this week.

“Along with the heavy toll on people and property, these fires have significantly damaged the forestland — and the forest sector as a whole — in East Texas,” said Chris Edgar, a forest resource analyst with Texas Forest Service. “It’s a tremendous loss for the East Texas timber industry.”

In 2007, forest industries funneled $427 million into the economy in Cass and Marion counties while employing 1,330 people with a payroll of $72 million. More information on the Texas wildfires is online at Inciweb.

The Bear Creek Fire alone burned  scorched 40,979 acres and destroying 66 homes in Cass and Marion counties. The wildfire also charred 17.3 million cubic feet of timber, which had a stumpage value of $8.8 million. That volume of timber could have produced $159 million worth of forest products, which would’ve spurred $349 million in economic activity in East Texas.

Since wildfire season began on Nov. 15, 2010, firefighters have responded in East Texas to 2,151 wildfires that charred 207,763 acres and destroyed 175 million cubic feet of timber, according to Texas Forest Service economists and analysts. The value of all those trees as they stood in the forest — a figure also known as stumpage value — was $97 million.

The total volume of all that timber could have produced $1.6 billion worth of different forest products — such as homes, furniture and paper — and would have resulted in a $3.4 billion total economic impact in East Texas.

The devastation isn’t just financial. It’s also ecological. Edgar said the wildfires ultimately could alter the forest’s ability to perform essential functions like sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, providing clean water, preventing soil erosion and providing habitat for wildlife.

Texas Forest Service economists and analysts have been studying wildfires that raged through East Texas earlier this month.

The Angelina River Bottom Fire burned for almost a week earlier this month, charring 6,554 acres in Nacogdoches and Cherokee counties. The wildfire destroyed 2.9 million cubic feet of timber, which had a stumpage value of $1.5 million. That volume of timber could have produced $27 million worth of forest products, which would’ve spurred $59 million in economic activity in East Texas.

In 2007, forest industries funneled $409 million into the economy in Nacogdoches and Cherokee counties while employing 1,990 people with a payroll of $71 million.

The Riley Road Fire burned for almost two weeks earlier this month, charring 18,960 acres and destroying 73 homes in Grimes, Waller and Montgomery counties. The wildfire also charred 20.8 million cubic feet of timber, which had a stumpage value of $12.8 million. That volume could have produced $191 million worth of forest products, which would’ve have spurred $420 million in economic activity in East Texas.

In 2007, forest industries funneled $116 million into the economy in Grimes, Waller and Montgomery counties while employing 550 people with a payroll of $24 million.

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