Lansing — Michigan DNR officials are reporting record timber sales from state lands this year, a trend they attribute to increased demand from an improving economy.
DNR Forest Resources Division Chief Bill O’Neill told Michigan Outdoor News the state “had a real good year in revenue for timber sales” that approached $40 million for the Forest Resources Division for fiscal year 2014.
“Revenue on federal, private, and state lands have all increased,” he said. “I think it reflects the increased demand – housing starts are up” and “general economic trends” are improving.
“We harvested 62,000 acres last year, which is what our forest plan says is a sustainable amount,” O’Neill added. “I would say demand on all forest products is up … from biomass to sugar maple and oak.”
Doug Heym, DNR timber sales specialist, said the state prepared 62,000 acres for harvest in FY 2014, which is actually down from 64,000 acres in 2013, but the timing of the actual timber harvest and payments to the state are not necessarily aligned because it can take three months to a year to complete a contract.
In 2014, Michigan took in a total of $46,160,709 in timber sales receipts, with $39,991,952 deposited in the Forest Development Fund the division uses for operations. The remainder goes to other dedicated state funds, “the primary one being the Fish and Game Fund,” Heym said.
Last year, the total revenue came to $37 million, he said.
“This was the most receipts we’ve ever received in a year,” Heym said of the 2014 revenues. “Prices are good right now – price per chord and price per board feet are on the higher side,” he said.
During the past several years, the state also has had more wood available for sale than in the past, particularly salvage wood from things like wildfires and trees taken down in an effort to contain beech bark disease and the emerald ash borer.
Luce County’s Duck Lake fire, for example, was ignited by lightning in May 2012 and affected about 21,000 acres, about 10,000 of which was salvaged and sold, Heym said.
“The key to all that we do in forest management, you need a healthy timber economy and right now things look good,” Heym said, “which means things look good for huntable wildlife.”
O’Neill believes that while the economy and demand for wood may be up, Gov. Rick Snyder also deserves some credit for boosting Michigan’s timber sales.
Snyder called a Forest Products Summit on Earth Day 2013 to rally those in Michigan’s forest industry around new goals and opportunities to expand.
The governor-appointed Timber Advisory Committee presented several goals at the summit, and O’Neill said industry leaders are rising to the challenge.
Those goals include, “increasing the economic impact of the timber industry on state and regional economies from $14 billion in 2010 to $20 billion in 2018; increasing the export of value-added timber products by 50 percent; increasing forest products-related careers by 10 percent; supporting existing industry; and encouraging regionally based industry development,” according to MichiganForest.com.
The state’s timber industry is on target to meet the financial goal, O’Neill said, with help from a wide array of wood products from across the state.
“It’s certainly diverse … and it goes from Ontonagon down to Monroe,” he said.
“Michigan is a very forested state, one of the top 10. We have over 20 million acres of forest,” O’Neill said, adding that many folks don’t realize the diversity of products made with Michigan wood.
“The NCAA (basketball tournament) floors all come from Michigan woods, from mills in the west end of the U.P.”