WEST MONROE, La. - Keeping sites productive in today's economy is an important consideration to managing forestlands, according to LSU AgCenter forestry specialist Mike Blazier.
With housing starts just starting to recover from an earlier slump, the market for saw timber and plywood is still weak, Blazier told the audience at the annual LSU AgCenter forestry forum on Jan. 18.
Near-term possibilities include a strong demand for pulpwood for packaging and shipping containers, he said. That means thinning operations should have a ready market.
Concerning larger trees, Blazier outlined the consequences of postponing harvest to wait for an improved market.
"The longer we wait, the longer we postpone revenue," he said. Unless prices improve significantly, landowners may be wise to harvest mature stands and take the profit that's available.
After harvest, it's important for a new planting to get off to a good start, Blazier said. "A good, genetically produced seedling is one of the best choices we can make."
Factors to consider at planting include seedling selection, site preparation, herbicide and fertilizer, he said.
"Maintaining forest productivity is vital to respond to short-term upticks in forest product markets, increased marketing opportunities and long-term improvement in the economy," Blazier said.
"Forest landowners have not been immune to the economic slowdown gripping Louisiana and the entire nation," said LSU AgCenter area agent Steven Hotard, who coordinated the event.
"Despite the decline, forestlands still provide sustainable contributions to the state's economy and environment," he said.
Products important for income are saw timber and plywood, said Steven Templin, president of Templin Forestry Inc. "That's where the real high value of our trees is."
Look through the eyes of a buyer as you manage your timber to increase its value over the long term, Templin said.
The value of a timber stand includes the physical volume of the product, size and grade of trees, access to the site, the months when harvest can be done and distance to mills, he said.
"If you can get to a stand in bad weather, you have an advantage," Templin said. "And if you can have buyers competing for your timber, you have another advantage."
Hunting leases can provide additional income for forest landowners, said LSU AgCenter wildlife specialist Don Reed.
Hunting leases in Louisiana generated nearly $93 million in 2011, Reed said. That includes both waterfowl and game.
Investing in maintaining appropriate habitat can generate significant income, Reed said. But he emphasized that maintaining good relationships with hunters is a good long-term practice.
William Ross from Louisiana Tech talked about forest health. He said infestations of laurel wilt disease are moving west into Mississippi and Alabama from their introduction on the Eastern Seaboard.
Although it hasn't reached Louisiana, the areas east of the Mississippi River are more likely to be affected. The disease will kill red bay and other species, including sassafras.
Ross emphasized that the "Don't Move Firewood" program will be helpful for containing this disease.