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Archived 2014 News, Issues & Information


(12/30/14) As we understand it, beginning on January 1, 2015, law enforcement problems related to timber theft and forest arson should be reported to the Alabama Rural Crime Unit at 1-855-75-CRIME. Based on a 12/28/14 article on AL.com, it appears that our highways will receive a lot of attention from the newly created Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, but we're not sure if calls reporting timber theft or forest arson will be handled effectively. We look forward to reports from forest landowners -- rll@afoa.org.

(12/29/14) PROPERTY TAX INCREASE FOR BALDWIN COUNTY to be decided in a referendum set for MARCH 31, 2014. Source: AL.com, 12/27/14. Total of 15 mills will be on the ballot ($150 tax per year on $100,000 home or forestland for several decades). See: Proponents and opponents of Baldwin County's school tax referendum keeping an eye on Gov. Robert Bentley's tax plan.

(12/22/14) "Federal Government Mandating Off-Road Vehicle Design: Negative Effects on Safety & Performance." "Polaris opposes [Comsumer Product Safety Commission's] proposed mandatory standard because there are significant gaps in the data CPSC is using to support a mandatory rule, the proposed metrics and safety claims do not apply across all categories and models of ROV, and the proposed standard will actually lead to unintended safety consequences in off-road conditions." Background and comments at the CPSC website.

(12/22/14) Based on October 2014 data, single family housing starts were up 15,4%, year to year. Source: Virginia Tech Housing Reports (archive)

(12/18/14) Today, Thursday, December 18, is the last opportunity you have to comment on the proposed listing of the Northern Long-Eared Bat as an endangered species. A TAKE ACTION webpage that makes it easy for you to send your comments to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is available on the Forest America website. For more information on the bat and the disease that is causing its possible extinction, see: 10/19/14, 8/29/14, 8/25/14, 6/13/14.

(12/17/14) Christmas Gift ideas from the Family Business Bookstore. A few titles caught our eye: Family Meetings, How Families Work Together, and How to Choose and Use Advisors.

(12/16/14) Practical Decisions and Applications of Finance and Timber Prices in Forestry (from Forisk Finance):

(12/15/14) Georgia-Pacific announced an investment of approximately $6 million at its Thorsby, Alabama, engineered lumber operations to expand production capacity of laminated veneer lumber (LVL). Source: PR Newswire, 12/8/14.

(12/12/14) Softwood Lumber Prices: "Prices for softwood lumber imported to China increased this fall, while they fell in Japan as the housing market weakened. In the US, lumber prices were moving downward in the 3Q, while still being close to their highest levels in ten years, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly. In the Nordic countries and Russia, lumber exports have increased because of higher demand for wood in key markets in Europe and the [Middle East and North Africa] countries." Source: Wood Resources Quarterly, 12/9/14.

(12/11/14) How much is needed? "Between the four largest landholding agencies (the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Parks Service) the federal government owns over 623 million acres. To put that in perspective, it is larger than France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Italy, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined." Source: The Daily Signal, 12/5/14.

(12/11/14) Christmas Gift Ideas: AFOA T-Shirts and AFOA Caps.

(12/04/14) "New study shows progress towards eradicating cogongrass infestations," states an Auburn University Press Release dated 11/24/14. "Auburn University College of Agriculture associate professor and Extension specialist Stephen Enloe, along with Nancy Loewenstein, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences research fellow, published a new study that reports significant progress in the fight against cogongrass. Cogongrass is ranked as the seventh worst invasive plant species worldwide and is both a significant economic and ecological threat to much of Alabama. The results of this study offer land managers several viable options in controlling the troublesome weed."

(12/03/14) The Complete Guide to Chain Saw Safety and Directional Felling: Forest Applications, EBook [NOOK Book], by Tim Ard, Mike Bolin (Director), and Laura Ard (Photographer), $16.49. Tim Ard is a chain saw expert who travels all over the U.S. teaching loggers and landowners the safe use of chainsaws and the art of directional felling. For those of you who do not have a Nook, there are free Nook Apps for iPad and Android tablets. 

(12/02/14) Death Tax, Part II. The Anti-Environment Tax Rolls On: the State-Based Version by Brian Seasholes, Reason Foundation Out of Control Policy Blog, 12/2/14. Editor's note: Forest owners who are considering an out-of-state move to be closer to the children may want to consider state death taxes before making a final decision.

(11/26/14) "With nasty cold fronts thrusting an icy and early winter across the continental U.S. — along with last winter described by USA Today as 'one of the snowiest, coldest, most miserable on record' — climatologist John L. Casey thinks the weather pattern is here to stay for decades to come. In fact, Casey, a former space shuttle engineer and NASA consultant, is out with the provocative book, Dark Winter: How the Sun Is Causing a 30-Year Cold Spell, which warns that a radical shift in global climate is underway..." Source: The Westerner, 11/17/14

(11/25/14) Good news on the Endangered Species Act front: Federal Court Rules for Property Owners in Endangered Species Act Case, National Center for Policy Analysis, 11/24/14. Original source: Ron Arnold, "For Once, a Court Sided With People Rather Than ‘Threatened' Rodents," Dailysignal.com, 11/18/14.

(11/21/14) In a speech to the Birmingham Business Alliance on November 19, Governor Robert Bentley reported that an expected 2016 General Fund shortfall will be greater than he expected. Instead of the $250 million shortfall he expected for 2016 fiscal year, "It's about $265 million now." The Alabama Forestry Commission is funded from the state's General Fund. (11/25/14) Bentley calls for more revenue, but ‘No New Taxes’ campaign pledge leaves few options.

(11/20/14) Tracking Forest and Landscape Change from Space Using The Forwarn system is an interesting webinar on a forest monitoring system that may alert you to changes on your land, such as tornado damage, timber theft, defoliations from insect or disease, etc. ForWarn is a "satellite-based change recognition and tracking" service made available by the U.S. Forest Service, NASA, USGS and others.

(11/10/14) "This proposed rule is patently unreasonable and should be amended or withdrawn," wrote Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Reed Hopper in "Waters of the United States" -- the ultimate power grab. Source: Liberty Blog, 11/10/14. Editor's note: Twenty or thirty years ago, we thought the whole idea of calling perfectly dry land "waters of the U.S." was crazy, but we've learned to never be surprised by the folks who push for greater and greater control of private property by the federal government. Unfortunately, they continue to win the arguments on the national stage.

(11/10/14) Alabama Hunting Incident Summary 2013-2014 and Alabama Hunter Education and Hunting Incident Statistics, both produced by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, contain information that you may find interesting, especially if you are a hunter or lease your land to hunters. We notice in the Statistics report that, while firearms and treestand "incidents" have generally decreased since hunter safety courses were required of young hunters, the 2012-2013 hunting season saw a sharp rise in both, based on incidents per 100,000 licenses sold. As a hunter or a landowner, you can make a difference in the number of hunting related accidents. Show the Hunting Incident Summary to your friends and the hunters who hunt on your land.

(11/06/14) A new federal wildlife refuge for the Paint Rock Valley in north Alabama? Dwight Cooley, Refuge Manager, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge will discuss the possibility of a new Paint Rock Valley refuge at the Clean Water Partnership meeting scheduled for 10 AM on November 20. The meeting will take place at the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Decatur. Remember the upset folks in Brent when the feds tried to lock up 200,000+ acres along and near the Cahaba River?

(11/05/14) Potlatch Corporation, one of the largest forest landowners in the U.S. whose stock is publicly traded, recently signed a purchase agreement for 201,000 acres of Alabama and Mississippi timberlands. Source: Potlatch Press Release, 10/20/14.

(11/04/14) Avoiding ESA's Perverse Incentives, a letter from Reason Foundation's Brian Seasholes to the editor of The Wall Street Journal, 10/27/14. See also 10/22/14.

(11/03/14) Ken Freeman's Discussion of Amendments on Nov. 4th Ballot offers an interesting perspective on the constitutional amendments we'll vote on tomorrow. Source: The Informed Voter. See also, 10/1/14, 10/8/14, 10/25/14.

(10/30/14) "Daughters being chosen more often as successor." "Although it was almost unheard of just a few decades ago, it is predicted that one in three family businesses will soon be headed by a woman." Source: News from JamisonMoneyFarmer, 10/29/14. We suspect that forestland businesses are experiencing the same changes as other family businesses. Three suggestions from the article:

  • Expose your children to the business at an early age, but don’t pressure them
  • Be sure they get the right education and experience
  • Show support of your successor

(10/29/14) Our Hunting Land for Lease webpage, www.HuntingLand.bz, has been really busy this fall. Yesterday we posted two tracts. A 40 acre tract in Crenshaw County with photos to prove trophy deer were present ($25 per acre) and a 99 acre tract in Montgomery County with excellent deer hunting potential and an old farm house with power and water ($30 per acre). Both were leased within 24 hours. If you have been thinking about leasing your land for hunting, you probably won't get those high prices, but you may well get $10 or more per acre. It's just 3 weeks until deer season begins. Send the information about your hunting land to rll@afoa.org.

(10/28/14) America at Work: Forestry, written by Jane Drake and Ann Love and illustrated by Pat Cupples, is a children's book (ages 7-10) which "examines all aspects of the industry, from the planting of new seedlings to the inner workings of a sawmill and a pulp and paper mill." If you have read the book ($5.35 at Amazon.com) (or reviewed the online preview), please let us know if you think America at Work: Forestry would be a good book for the Alabama Forest Owners' Association to give to Alabama public libraries. The association has been giving forestry books (both adult and children's) to Alabama public libraries for many years. Send your comments to Lee at rll@afoa.org.

(10/27/14) Ag and Forestry Museum Opens at Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds. "The museum features historical and educational exhibits that spotlight different segments of agriculture: aquaculture; forestry and wildlife; row crops; ornamental nursery and greenhouse; fruit, vegetables and bees; and livestock." "The museum is located at 1035 Cody Road N., Mobile, AL 36608. It will be open during all events at the fairgrounds. It will also be available for school field trips." Source: alfafarmers.org, 10/24/14

(10/25/14) 2 states to have pro-hunting ballot amendments in November. Source: www.guns.com, 10/25/14.  For more information, see 10/1/14, below.

(10/22/14) The Black Pinesnake (Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi) has been proposed for listing as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The black pinesnake is a subspecies, currently known from Alabama and Mississippi. Among other things, pine plantations are thought to be leading to the extinction of this subspecies. Your comments on the proposed listing must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on December 8, 2014. Details about the proposed listing, including information on sending your comments to the USF&WS, are available in the Federal Register, Volume 79, Number 194 (Tuesday, October 7, 2014) [pages 60406-60419]. You may also find interesting Dr. Terry Anderson's opinion piece in the October 20 Wall Street Journal, When the Endangered Species Act Threatens Wildlife.

(10/21/14) October 19-25 is National Forest Products Week. "Since 1960, the seven-day period beginning on the third Sunday in October in each year has been designated by Presidential proclamation as a time to recognize the many products that come from our forests, the people who work in and manage our forests, the people who make the products, and how forest products contribute to our daily lives. The proclamation calls on all Americans to celebrate the varied uses and products of our forested lands, as well as the people who carry on the tradition of careful stewardship of these precious natural resources for generations to come." Source: Southern Forest Products Association NewsNote, 10/21/14.

(10/20/14) "Last year there were 14 treestand falls in Alabama, including one that resulted in a fatality. Treestand incidents are one of the leading causes of injury to hunters." Source: Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, 10/20/14. Editor's note: Treestand falls are also a leading cause of liability claims against forest landowners. Be sure to remind your hunters to check safety straps and follow the advice at www.tmastands.com/_safety.html.

(10/19/14) "...a reason for optimism." A research team may be close to developing a cure for the deadly white nose syndrome which has killed the Northern Long-Eared Bat by the millions. Rules proposed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to help the bat species avoid extinction include curtailing summertime harvest of timber in much of the Eastern U.S., including Alabama. See also: 8/29/14, 8/25/14, 6/13/14.

(10/16/14) What is your opinion? Are you surprised that the last of the Key Findings of Chapter 6 of the Southern Forest Futures Project (written by salaried academics and bureaucrats) encourages "...increased monitoring of ownership changes and of forestland transaction values to better understand the conservation implications of economic trends."? May we suggest that the federal government has many more serious problems to solve than those regarding the ownership of forestland in the only place in the world where economic and political cultures encourage long-term investment in private forests? 

(10/15/14) Perhaps forest management is not the primary reason Gopher Tortoises could be listed as "Endangered"?  See: Florida man charged with smuggling protected tortoises out of Alabama, AL.com, 10/8/14.

(10/13/14) Timber Investments Cut Down Portfolio Risk -- an essay by Robert Stammers at Investopedia.com. AFOA thanks Forest Management Specialists for leading us to the Investopedia essay.

(10/10/14) A control method for some mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue and chikungunya, is available, but cannot be used in the U.S. Source: How Many Regulators Does It Take to Kill a Mosquito?, Forbes, 10/8/14. AFOA thanks the National Center for Policy Analysis for leading us to the Forbes article.

(10/9/14) Would it give you great heartburn if laws against hiring illegal aliens were strictly enforced? Would your tree seedlings get planted? Would private forestland go into decline? Chris Mathews, in an interview with Andrea Mitchell, Andrea Mitchell Reports, MSNBC, 10/8/14, described a compromise on the "issue of immigration" that he thinks would stop the huge influx of illegal aliens into the U.S.: "There is a compromise...Simply say you can't hire people illegally in this country." Mathews' interview begins (after the short ad) at 1:39 and proceeds on the "immigration issue" to 3:32.

(10/8/14) "Everything you need to know about voting in Alabama." Source: YellowHammer, 10/1/14.

(10/7/14) Deforestation Myths Debunked by Facts. Source: F2M Market Watch, 9/16/14.

  • Myth: Forests in the United States are being depleted.
  • Myth: The use of wood for energy will lead to deforestation.
  • Myth: Forest owners clearcut trees to supply biomass markets.

(10/6/14) "In a great victory today for property owners in Alabama, the United States Supreme Court has issued an order denying certiorari in Case number 13-1232, Lynch, India, et al. v. the State of Alabama."
     "...the plaintiffs were seeking to show that Alabama property tax revenues fail to adequately fund K-12 public schools and that this shortfall unconstitutionally shortchanges black public school students."
     "Success by the plaintiffs would have resulted in application of existing state and local tax millage rates to the full fair market value of all property. This would mean that timberland and farmland owners would see an increase in property taxes by at least a factor of ten, unless millage rates were reduced by subsequent local or state legislative action." Source: From the Weeds, 10/6/14. Also, see 5/15/14 and 4/16/14, below.

(10/3/14) Single-Family Housing Starts, a key driver of pine sawtimber stumpage demand, still far below 50 year average (Scroll down to page 10). Source: Raymond James Real Estate, Industry Brief, Timber Topics, 10/14. There's lots more information in the 29 page report - take a look around once you've opened it.

(10/2/14) A FEW QUESTIONS asked at the end of the best report on the Endangered Species Act that we have seen:

  • What if landowners treat endangered species like bluebirds and wood ducks, instead of spotted owls?
  • What if landowners see endangered species as assets, not liabilities?
  • What if landowners voluntarily and willingly pick up the phone and call their local Fish and Wildlife Service office to have someone come out and survey their land for endangered species?
  • What if we draw on Americans’ world-leading charity, voluntarism and civic- mindedness for the cause of conserving endangered species?
  • What if landowners no longer fear state and federal regulatory agencies and instead view them with confidence and openness?
  • What if landowners are liberated to use their ingenuity and knowledge of their property in order to conserve endangered species?

Source: Fulfilling the Promise of the Endangered Species Act by Brian Seasholes - Reason Foundation Policy Study 433, 9/14.

Food for thought in Alabama: Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Red Hills Salamander, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Eastern Gopher Tortoise, Northern Long-Eared Bat...

(10/1/14) Did You Know? Five statewide amendments to the Alabama constitution will be given an up or down vote on November 4. There will be 4 local amendments, too. The Alabama Forestry Association supports Statewide Amendments 1, 3, 4, & 5, but not Amendment 2. Fair Ballot Commission ballot statements approved with Commission Comment on 9/2/14. (10/2/14) Alabama Candidates Endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

(9/30/14) U.S. Steel sells 70K acres in Alabama. Source: Birmingham Business Journal, 9/30/14. Editor's note. As we understand it, the 70 thousand acres did not include timber rights which were purchased in a separate deal from SWF Birmingham, LLC. Other names of interest: Valley Creek Land & Timber LLC, Molpus Woodlands Group, Claw Forestry Services.

(9/29/14) The Alabama Hunting and Fishing Almanac will be useful to you if you hunt on your land, and may help you know more about the interests of your hunters, if you lease your land. The Almanac is published by the Hunting Heritage Foundation.

(9/22/14) While Alabama's General Fund is expected to take another big hit next year (see 9/2/14 below), we just learned, "The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) has purchased 3,649 acres that will be added to the state’s Wildlife Management Area (WMA) system in south Alabama. The land is located in Covington County and will become part of the Geneva State Forest WMA." Source: OutdoorAlabama.com.  Editor's note: According to The Economic Impact of Privately-Owned Forests (page 19), 3,649 acres of average Alabama private forestland contributes about $897,654 to Alabama's Gross Domestic Product; 3,649 acres of average Alabama public forestland contributes only $18,245 to the GDP. Annual cost of the state owning 3,649 acres of forestland to the economy of the state: $879,409.

(9/19/14) Pat Minogue: "Studies show early site prep yields best pine growth."

(9/16/14) "Don’t give gifts to your heirs until you’ve answered this question. With health-care costs rising, can you afford to be generous?" Source: Market Watch, 9/11/14.

(9/15/14) "Byrne: EPA’s senseless regulations are hurting Alabama farmers and foresters. Imagine this: a thunderstorm rolls through Alabama and causes a small puddle to develop on a farm. Under a rule proposed by the EPA, this puddle could be subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. This is the epitome of big government." Source: YellowHammer, 9/14/14

(9/12/14) "Cameras in the [Oregon] woods replace forest fire lookouts" Source: Eugene Register-Guard, 9/10/14. Not writing in response to the Register-Guard article, but focusing on the same problem - out of control western forest fires - forester Doug Turner wrote in The Forestry Source, 9/14: "The money that would be necessary to build the 'latest big gizmo' would be better spent on road and trail maintenance, improved safety gear for firefighters, and serious reduction of existing fuel loads."

(9/11/14) October 17 is Signup Deadline for Ala NRCS Conservation Programs. Some wildlife and forestry practices on private land are subsidized by these programs.

(9/10/14) "The pulp and paper industry in the Nordic countries has started to see a new dawn with a growing demand for pulp and paper products made from long wood fiber from the vast conifer forests in Northern Europe. Just over the past few months, there have been a number of announcements in investments made by forest companies in Finland, Norway and Sweden totaling close to three billion dollars, as reported in the Wood Resource Quarterly.
     "The primary end-products will be softwood market pulp and virgin fiber-based container board, but major investments are also being considered in increasing the utilization of forest biomass for energy on a larger scale. Although the investment decisions have not been finalized for all projects, these ruminations are a sign that the forest industry in this part of the world sees the future in a much brighter light than just a few years ago."

(9/9/14) Wild Fire Services, Inc., provides firefighting crews and engines to help suppress forest fires for state and federal agencies in the northwestern U.S. If Alabama's General Fund Budget gets squeezed, as some are predicting (see 9/2/14, below), do you think private fire fighters would be an effective supplement to a reduced full-time state employee staff? According to their website, Wild Fire Services, Inc., thins hazardous fuels and conducts prescribed burns along with Wild Land Fire Suppression and other related services. See also, 6/10/14.

(9/8/14) Announced Wood Bioenergy "projects in the South that pass viability screens could consume 20.1 million additional tons of wood per year by 2023." Source: Wood Bioenergy US, June/July/August 2014. Editor's note: Environmentalists who worry that biomass harvesting may consume all the trees in the South should read the periodic Wood Bioenergy reports. 20.1 million tons (the amount that might be additionally consumed by all known southern biomass projects) could easily be grown on 2 million acres (10 tons per acre or less than 2 cords per acre). Alabama alone has 23 million acres of forestland and Wood Bioenergy's southern regions encompass 12 states.

(9/6/14) "Firewood shortages hitting parts of Nova Scotia." Firewood suppliers "on Nova Scotia’s south shore used to get some of their hardwood from contractors that worked for Bowater Mersey. Since the mill shut down and the province bought the land, the source has dried up." Added 9/19/14: "Minnesota firewood shortage 'unprecedented,' timber exec says." Source: TwinCities.com

(9/4/14) "Former junior firefighter charged in 3 Jefferson County blazes." "Joshua Lynn Dodd, 23, of Bessemer, is charged with three counts of intentionally setting a woodland fire, said Jefferson County sheriff's Chief Deputy Randy Christian. He is being held in the county jail with bonds totaling $45,000."

(9/3/14) Repeat photography in Alabama: 1949, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1957, 1962. For lots more interesting repeat photography, go to www.repeatphotography.org, a project of the Forest History Society.

(9/2/14) "You Can Pay Me Now, Or Pay Me Later." Read the editorial in the Summer 2014 issue of Alabama Forests to find out why Alabama's forest industry leaders are concerned about the rapidly rising costs of prisons, Medicaid, and higher education. See also: "Here's what every Alabama taxpayer's share of the state's debt is, and why." Source: YellowHammer, 9/2/14.

(8/29/14) Bat-Friendly Forestry - a video to help you create bat habitat on your land. We realize that some of the management activties suggested in this Minnesota video won't apply to the forests of Alabama, and we realize that the real threat to the Northern Long-Eared Bat (see below 8/25/14 and 6/13/14) is a disease problem, not a habitat problem, but you may find something in the video that you can do that will make you and your bats happy.

(8/28/14) Florida Forest Service Sets Prescribed Fire Record. "The Florida Forest Service oversees one of the most active prescribed fire programs in the country in order to reduce the risk of wildfires and keep Florida’s natural habitats healthy and growing. During the past year, the Florida Forest Service reports that more than 2.5 million acres across Florida were treated with prescribed fire, one of the highest numbers ever reported by any state in the country." Source: News Release, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 8/21/14.

(8/27/14) A GoPro camera gives a bird's-eye view from an Italian Corpo Forestale dello Stato helicopter in action over wildfires. At a recent meeting in Birmingham of the Cahaba Chapter of the Society of American Foresters, foresters briefly discussed the pros and cons of the Alabama Forestry Commission acquiring a small helicopter for dousing fires and other reconnaissance work.

(8/26/14) Should BP Oil Spill funds be used to remove private land from productivity and the tax rolls? Source: Associated Press, 8/22/14

(8/25/14) Northern Long-Eared Bat ESA Listing: Time to Comment. "The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s public comment period on its proposal to list the Northern Long-Eared Bat as “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act will conclude on Friday, August 29." Editor's note: The Alabama Forest Owners' Association will not send comments to the USF&WS concerning this issue. It is the association's policy to keep you informed, but allow you to speak to the issues of the day. See 6/13/14 below.

(8/21/14) "Reining in the EPA Through the Power of the Purse." (see section 3) Removing the word "navigable" from the definition of waters of the U.S. was made meaningless many years ago when "navigable waters" came to include dry land long distances from water that would be incapable of floating a canoe. The overreach by our regulators (our owners?) must be stopped and pushed back. Don't you agree?

(8/20/14) "Pay your protection money. Do the secret handshake. And kiss the ring." An interesting perspective on forest management certification schemes - in particular, the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC. Source: The Daily Signal, 4/19/14

(8/19/14) To make them easy to remember, AFOA has created special web addresses for our most popular web pages. They are:

(8/18/14) Not something you'd expect to find up on a hill in your woods, but watch out when you're wading a creek in the bottoms. A 1,012 pound alligator was pulled from "a creek several miles above Millers Ferry Dam..." For the full story and photos, visit AL.com, 8/17/14.

(8/15/14) Timber Market Update (for North-Northwest Alabama) from the Newsletter of Forest Management Specialists, Volume 1, Issue 3, 8/4/14.

  • Pine pulpwood: The bad news is that this product still has relatively low prices but the good news is that it is moving better than it was 3 months ago as area mills have eased their restrictive quotas.
  • Pine chip-n-saw & saw timber: Not much movement in the price paid for this product. Prices paid for softwood lumber in China have fallen this quarter. However, most experts predict that the overall prices paid for this finished product will slowly continue to increase. Hopefully, the prices paid for standing timber will soon reflect this optimistic outlook.
  • Hardwood pulpwood: Prices paid for this product in the heart of the Tennessee Valley continue to be low. However, standing timber sales in northeast Alabama, southeast Tennessee, northwest Georgia, and central to south Alabama indicate relatively good prices paid for this product. Prices in east Mississippi and west Alabama are also improving.
  • Hardwood blended saw timber: These products continue to be in high demand. Even hickory and poplar tracts have brought good prices recently. Tracts that can be harvested in wet weather are still bringing a premium.
  • Hardwood high quality/specialty: The past six timber sales that we have coordinated have brought much higher than anticipated prices for high quality hardwood, especially white oak. Prices for ash and cypress have improved recently and specialty products like cherry and black walnut remain high.

See also: Timber Mart-South: Alabama State-wide Average Prices.

(8/12/14) While furniture imports from China, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia have been on the rise and some U.S. furniture manufacturers have closed their doors, "...it is not necessarily bad news for the American hardwood lumber industry. The U.S. hardwood forest is sustainable and the forest products industry has the infrastructure in place to manufacture the resource. The U.S. is a leader in the world with more than $765 million in timber exports in the first six months of 2014, up 32% from the same period in 2013." Source: US Furniture Industry Update by Tom Inman, President of Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers, Tennessee Forestry Association TreeLine, August 2014 (scroll to page 9)

(8/11/14) What do we mean when we say, "I own this piece of property."? "Ownership is nothing less than the right to shape, use, and dispose. Even if you have legal title to something, you wouldn’t think you really owned it if the government told you what you could do with it, how, and when; in that instance, the government would be the de facto owner. In a real sense, ownership is control and the actual owner of anything is the controller." Source: Clichés of Progressivism #16 - Ownership Must Be Tempered by Sharing by Lawrence W. Reed, 8/1/14.

(8/8/14) Published in 1976, "The Genetics and Breeding of Southern Pines, is used as a text and reference book all over the world." For a bit of background information about the author, Keith Dorman, read the 8/7/14 Compass Live article, The Olustee Experimental Forest: From naval stores to southern pine genetics.

(8/7/14) The Service Forester's Toolkit, based on the old U.S. Forest Service's Service Forester's Handbook, is now available as a free app for iPhone or iPad. The main menu includes the following topics: Financial, General Measurements, Site Index, Stand Measurements, Tree Measurements, and Volume Measurements. Among the many interesting tables in the Toolkit is one titled: Comparison of Log Rules. Did you know that a 16 foot long log with a 12 inch diameter inside the bark at the small end scales 64 board feet (Doyle Scale), 79 board feet (Scribner Scale), and 95 board feet (International Scale)? Chew on that awhile. 

(8/6/14) "Once hailed as one of the world’s most progressive climate measures, Australia’s carbon tax is now dead and buried. Will American policy makers take note?" Source: http://energyfairness.org/blog/, 8/4/14. Editor's note: It is important to keep an eye on carbon taxes and mandates, since a growing wood pellet market in the South is highly dependent on European government mandates.

(8/5/14) The Google Maps Area Calculator Tool by Daft Logic was sent to AFOA yesterday by AFOA member Steve Dyess, Sylacauga. Steve wrote, "It’s free, simple to use, and I’ve found it to be very accurate. I’ve checked behind areas that were surveyed and gotten similar numbers, and I use it often to determine acreage for various projects on the farm. There’s no reason to guess at how many acres are in an opening or a tract of timber anymore; just measure it and find out."

(8/4/14) Alabama's Lee County Forestry Judging Team recently placed first overall in the National 4-H Forestry Invitational held in Weston, West Virginia. "Events included tree identification, tree measurement, compass and pacing, insect and disease identification, topographic map use, forest evaluation, the forestry bowl and a written forestry exam. Alabama was represented by Lisa and Polly Barron, both from Auburn, and Gavin and Seth Rankins, both from Cusseta. The team was coached by Greg and Angela Nichols from Lafayette. Lisa Barron ... received the high point individual award."

(8/1/14) The $400,000 Decision. Are you nearing retirement age and planning to use Social Security to help you enjoy your forestland? Economist Larry Kotlikoff, NCPA, reported to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security on July 29: "A 62-year-old couple that has contributed the maximum amount to the Social Security program would be eligible for benefits at age 62. If they take their benefits then, their lifetime benefits will be $1.2 million. However, if they wait until age 70 to collect their benefits, lifetime benefits will total $1.6 million."

(7/31/14) "Six indicators enable reasoned assessment of the environment: guest opinion" by John Hill, senior policy analyst at the Alabama Policy Institute (API) on AL.com, 7/30/14. Highlights of Alabama's Environment 2014 are found at the API website, including a summary paragraph on Forests & Land. Editor's Note: While we are glad that API has put together this positive report, you should be aware that the summary paragraph on Forests & Land and bulleted items on pages 3 and 54 of the report understates the forest cover of Alabama at only 53%, about 11% lower than 64% reported by the Forest Inventory & Analysis data gathered by the Alabama Forestry Commission and the US Forest Service. That's a difference of almost 4 million acres, an area 5 times larger than the state of Rhode Island. See page of 3 of Forest Resource Report 2013.

(7/30/14) "Some people will say, 'We don't want to go to Alabama. It's just rivers and forest.'" Source: AL.com, 7/29/14

(7/29/14) Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc. (PCL) rating reduced by Raymond James from Outperform 2 to Market Perform 3. "While we maintain a positive long-term view on Plum Creek, we believe PCL shares are likely to remain range-bound near-term given our view that the current 'consensus' housing outlook for 2015 remains overly optimistic."

(7/28/14) Eleven new Champion Trees were recently registered in Alabama's list of big trees. "One of the new champions, a southern shagbark hickory, has a good chance of being declared a national champion later this year!" Champion Trees of Alabama 2014 contains measurements of the largest trees by species recorded in Alabama and is published periodically by the Alabama Forestry Commission.

(7/25/14) We don't know how you might acquire one, but we know that some of you will want to own the 2-wheel drive motorcycle featured in a video on YouTube. Check here for more information and here, too.

(7/21/14) According to David Peterson (see 1/20/14 below), the "'Friends of the Delta' are attempting to resurrect the attempt to Federalize the Delta." To stay up-to-date on this issue, visit (and like) Save the Mobile/Tensaw Delta Facebook page.

(7/10/14) Forest Road Construction - an interesting, though dated, video from The Alabama Cooperative Extension Service.

(7/8/14) Resource Management Apprenticeship available at Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, Newton, Georgia.

(7/7/14) No more government trucks for rural fire departments. Because surplus military vehicles don't meet EPA air pollution standards, "The federal government has ended a program that provides millions of dollars worth of equipment to thousands of rural fire departments... the federal government will send surplus vehicles — even those with only 1,000 miles — to depots and supply yards to be crushed or scraped." Source: EnidNews.com, 7/1/14. The Hill reported on 7/11/14, "The change may not have been intentional, as the EPA is now working with the DOD to clear it up."

(6/30/14) Direct seeding southern pines was a common practice 40 years ago, and can be used today by landowners who take the time to make it work. A recent report by James P. Barnett, entitled Direct Seeding Southern Pines: History and Status of a Technique Developed for Restoring Cutover Forests will give you a little background on the science and use of the technique. A Mississippi State University publication you may find useful is Direct Seeding: A Forest Regeneration Alternative. Louisiana Forest Seed Company sells treated, stratified (ready for sowing) loblolly pine seed for about $55 per pound. They said you will need to put out about 1/2 pound per acre. The seed needs to touch mineral soil to germinate and survive, so preparing the site will be your biggest problem. If you try direct seeding and are successful, send AFOA a few photos.

(6/24/14) Chubb Urges Homeowners in Wildfire Areas to Use Fire-Resistive Construction Materials.

(6/20/14) Selling the Right to Access Private Land for Hunting and Recreation, in Oregon and Washington, threatens their "way of life." "...a flood of frustration and disgust basically came over me when I heard that" Weyerhaeuser will begin charging access fees to their land. Source: Timber Giant Begins Selling Seasonal Permits, But Some Push Back, Northwest Public Radio, 6/17/14

(6/19/14) "Several of the housing market indicators exhibited marginal increases in April – this is not typical for spring. Historically, March, April, and May are the best months for housing starts and sales (new and existing). It appears as the overall market is muddling along." Source: Virginia Tech Housing Reports (archive).

(6/18/14) "Calling for Alabama Tree Farmer of the Year Nominations. Each year, the Alabama Tree Farm Committee recognizes superior stewardship of its Tree Farm members through the Alabama State Tree Farmer of the Year Award. These landowners are chosen for their remarkable efforts to demonstrate, communicate and spread sustainable practices. The winner will be recognized at the annual Alabama Natural Resources Council Awards Banquet scheduled for February 6, 2015. To nominate a Tree Farmer for their outstanding efforts, please visit www.alaforestry.org/treefarm and download the State Tree Farmer of the Year Nomination Form. The deadline for nominations is September 1, 2014."

(6/16/14) Sawfly Update for Northwest Alabama: "A sawfly monitoring flight made by the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) last week indicated that the sites infested by the pine sawflies are recovering with new needle growth. It does appear that the sites that have been attacked for multiple years are recovering more slowly. No new sites were found during the flights. Since the trees on the infested sites are stressed, the AFC will continue to monitor them for other issues, mainly Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) activity. A regular SPB detection flight for the entire North Region will occur in July." See 5/28/14, below.

(6/13/14) Being pushed to the brink of extinction by a fungal disease (WNS), the Northern Long-Eared Bat (NLEB), which lives in Alabama, has been proposed for listing as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Leaders of the Society of American Foresters from Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota wrote a letter to the Fish & Wildlife Service on June 10, 2014 agreeing that the bat is threatened with extinction because of the disease, but questioning the logic of imposing forest management restrictions unrelated to the cause of the possible extinction. They wrote, "...populations of NLEB were at or near peak levels prior to the outbreak of WNS — indicating that sound habitat management has been taking place in our managed forests."   (6/20/19) Further information and possible ways of dealing with the disease from Forest Resources Association, Inc.

(6/12/14) Land Market News from Matre Forestry Newsletter, June 4, 2014

     In our core market of southwest Georgia, activity has improved, but timberland dirt prices are only very slowly trickling up. But, improved timber prices along with ample rain increasing productivity has pushed the value of timberland tracts up measurably. Irrigated farmland seems to be stagnate or receding, as chatter about a potential farmland bubble and concerns about declining commodity prices have increased.
     We most all know by now that recreational and higher and better use (HBU) value sharply declined in this recession. We are starting to see some improvement there. Several of our clients from middle Florida have indicated that middle Florida is building homes again, and we here Atlanta is to. As a result, we are seeing more recreational land buyers back in the Georgia land market, which is one of the strongest recreational land markets being a favorite hunting destination for Floridians and Atlanta suburbanites. But, sellers should not get to excited yet, the recreational land buyers are more grounded and cautious than they were prior to this recession, and they are looking for deals - not looking to over pay. As more and more come into the market, we will see recreational values increase. After sustained housing starts improvement, we will see HBU values rise as well.

(6/11/14) Cahaba Pressure Treated Forest Products (Cahaba Timber Co.), "the largest single site round wood processing plant in the world" in Brierfield, Alabama, has recently announced plans to expand its operation to include wood crossties. Source: Cahaba Timber Press Release, 5/27/14.

(6/10/14) Insurance-funded wildfire fighting crews are being deployed in Colorado for high end property owners. Is this a model that might be used to fight eastern forest fires when crews are not conducting prescribed burns, planting trees, building fire lanes, painting property lines, etc., etc.?

(6/9/14) "Work with, not against, the state's landowners." "We hope the federal government ... is learning it can better protect wildlife and endangered species by working with, rather than against, Alabama and its property owners." Source: Montgomery Advertiser, 5/31/14.

(6/6/14) "Jack Daniel's Cooperage hiring for new Lawrence County[, Alabama] barrel-making plant." North Alabama forest owners with stave-quality white oak might want to learn more about the cooperage market before making their next timber sale.

(6/5/14) "It's time for a final policy on biomass," states the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) in a 6/3/14 press release. NAFO urges the EPA to produce a "clear, affirmative policy" that treats biomass as a renewable fuel, not a fossil fuel as some would prefer. Editor's note: Do we detect a bit of conflict between those who say, "Carbon (CO2) is not a pollutant," and those who say, "If carbon is a pollutant, than let's minimize the fossil fuel problem by burning more 'renewable' biomass."? Can we have it both ways? Do we want it both ways?

(6/4/14) Lack of forest management, not climate change, is likely cause of wildfire numbers & size, reported Auburn University Emeritus Professor David B. South in his June 3, 2014 testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Green Jobs & the New Economy. Be sure to review the transcript of Dr. South's testimony - Figure 1. and Figure 6 are eye-openers. Also, a C-Span video of his testimony is available on the web -- South's 5 minute testimony begins at 1:25:06. You might also find the testimony of Dr. David R. Legates interesting, as well. It begins right after David South's at 1:30:09. Humorous addition (6/6/14): Washington Governor Inslee: Fires will worsen without emission control.

(6/3/14) Another Biofuel Plant Bites the Dust? "KiOR has expressed 'substantial doubt' regarding its ability to restart its Columbus, Mississippi facility. According to the company’s recently released quarterly report, design and reliability issues have caused the facility to run 'significantly below' its capacity of 500 bone dry tons of biomass per day. KiOR has the funds necessary to operate through August but will require additional capital to continue past that time." Source: F2M Market Watch, 5/27/14. KiOR, a biofuel hopeful, given a $75 million loan by the Mississippi Legislature in 2010, "owes the state $69.4 million and cites debts of $279.5 million as of Feb. 28." Source: Mississippi Watchdog.org, 3/18/14. Editor's note to Alabama legislators: Fix the roads and bridges.

(5/29/14) Candidate Endorsements for the June 3rd Primary Election are available from the Alabama Forestry Association's ForestPAC and Alabama Farmers Federation's FarmPAC. Editor's note: Although I don't follow AFA's and Alfa's recommendations for all my personal election choices, their lists are a good place to start for a forest landowner. If you would like AFOA to post other endorsement lists, please send details to rll@afoa.org. Thanks.

(5/28/14) "During the last few weeks, there have been numerous reports from Northwest Alabama about dying pine trees. Most of the visible damage is [surprisingly] occurring on reasonably healthy, mature loblolly pines, growing in well-managed stands. According to officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC), the apparent culprits are larvae of the loblolly pine sawfly, feeding on and defoliating pine needles. With infestations reported in Colbert, Marion, Franklin, Lamar, and Fayette counties, the AFC is in the process of conducting aerial surveys of the affected counties. Infestation notices are being prepared for landowners where problems are detected, along with stand management recommendations." Source: AFC Press Release, 5/28/14. Contact your local AFC county office to let them know you would like to receive an alert if sawfly damage is detected on your land. Images of Loblolly Pine Sawfly.

(5/23/14) If the Retirement System of Alabama goes broke, as predicted by a think tank at Troy State University, do you think there will be pressure to raise property taxes? Source: AL.com, 5/19/14. More on this subject from Alabama Citizens for Media Accountability, May 27, 2014.

(5/17/14) Alabama Voters: "If you wish to vote an absentee ballot in the 2014 primaries [June 3], your application must be received by your local registrar - either hand delivered or by postal service - by May 29, and your completed absentee ballot must be hand delivered or postmarked by June 2.... If you will be voting at your assigned polling place, be aware that all voters will be required to present a photo ID to election officials prior to casting a ballot." Source: ARSEA/APEAL Weekly Update, 5/16/14. For complete details about voter registration, voter ID, and absentee ballot information, go to AlabamaVotes.gov, The State of Alabama's Official Election Center.

(5/15/14) Property Tax Case (Lynch Lawsuit, Part III) may be finished by October 6, 2014, reports From the Weeds, 5/15/14. Also, see 4/16/14, below.

(5/13/14) In Europe: "The freedom to roam, or everyman's right is the general public's right to access certain public or privately owned land for recreation and exercise." A short read on the Public Trust Doctrine may be enlightening, as well. Source: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

(5/9/14) A Crack in the Consensus on Global Warming. It's important to remember that the market for wood pellets manufactured in the southern U.S. comes primarily from European government mandates that limit the burning of fossil fuels. If enough of these "cracks" develop in the "consensus," those mandates may disappear -- as will the market for fuel wood shipped across the Atlantic to Europe.

(5/8/14) No Net Gain in Federal Land. That's not the name of Virginia Congressman H. Morgan Griffith's legislation entitled, Acre In, Acre Out (HR 4423), but the results will likely be the same if the legislation were to be passed into law. "This bill would require the Federal Government to sell an acre of land it already owns for every new acre of land that it acquires. Proceeds from the land sales would go towards paying down our national debt."

(5/7/14) "As in previous months, the near-term outlook on the U.S. housing market remains unchanged -- there are potentially several negative macro-factors or headwinds at this point in time for a robust housing recovery (based on historical long-term averages). Once the economy improves, we should expect to see housing activity increase as well." Source: Virginia Tech's March 2014 Housing Commentary.

(5/5/14) Last week the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives "approved four bills that will improve and modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA)." The measures seek to improve scientific and litigation transparency, enhance states’ role in species restoration, and cap government-paid attorneys’ fees under ESA-related litigation. Source: The Westerner, 5/2/14.

(5/2/14) American Farm Bureau is calling on its grassroots to bring attention to its concerns regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed Waters of the U.S. rule and how it will negatively affect farmers and ranchers. Farm Bureau wants members to get involved in its new “Ditch the Rule” grassroots campaign.
More on the same subject from the American Land Rights Association:
     "The EPA and Corps of Engineers continue their effort to bypass the word “Navigable” in the Clean Water Act thereby expanding the lands and waters they can regulate to nearly all waters and lands in the United States.
     "If successful, the EPA and Corps will effectively undermine the word “Navigable” in Clean Water Act so the EPA and Corps of Engineers will have wetlands jurisdiction over all waters of the United States and “all activities affecting all waters of the United States.”
     "That means private property, ranching, farming, mining, logging, recreation, rural roads and many other uses. That includes nearly all land in the U.S. also.
     "Congress must take away the money (defund) the EPA and Corps can use for new Clean Water Act regulations.
     "You can stop the EPA and Corps by getting both your Senators and your Congressman to support taking the funding away from the EPA and Corps for their proposed new Clean Water Act regulations.
     "This is important because the EPA just released their proposed new Wetlands Jurisdiction Regulations and a new report on Wetlands and the jurisdiction of EPA and the Corps of Engineers over most of the water and land in the US.
     "Call your Senator at 202-224-3121 for a copy of the new EPA wetlands jurisdiction report. That is important to engage them in a dialogue about the term “Navigable” and Wetlands Jurisdiction. You can also
type:
     "Call your Congressman at (202) 225-3121 and make the same request. It idea is to get both your Senators and your Congressman up to speed on this issue and taking action to protect you. That means taking the money away from EPA and Corps for these new regulations.
American Farm Bureau is calling on its grassroots to bring attention to its concerns regarding the proposed Waters of the U.S.
rule and how it will negatively affect farmers and ranchers. Farm Bureau wants members to get involved in its new “Ditch the Rule” grassroots campaign."

(5/1/14) Property Tax Increase to be voted on in Macon County Soon. “A referendum allowing a 7.5% increase in property taxes will be on the ballot soon in Macon County. The bill (SB468- Act 14-310) was a local bill and the proceeds from the increase will go to fund the Little Texas Volunteer Fire Department. If this measure prevails at the ballot box, we will most likely see similar initiatives in other areas of the state.” Source: Legislative Session Wrap Up, From the Weeds, 4/18/14

(4/30/14) Wood pellet exports from North America to Europe have doubled in two years to reach 4.7 million tons in 2013 with the U.S. South accounting for 63% of the volume, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review. There are about a half dozen wood pellet mills in Alabama.

(4/22/14) “It is simplistic to assume that people will blindly use up what sustains them without regard to the incentive structures they face; if they have incentives to conserve, they will do so.” And yet, some members of our society fear that we’re running out of natural resources and that government must manage those resources. Source: Clichés of Progressivism #2, 4/22/14 by Max Borders. “Private property is a powerful incentive to conserve resources. You lose if you squander what’s yours.”

(4/18/14) An interesting video series on Forest Farming Non-Timber Products focuses on Growing Ramps - a wild onion or leek - was produced by Research Forest Products Technologist, Dr. Jim Chamberlain, Southern Research Station.

(4/17/14) The Longleaf Alliance, in collaboration with the Regional Forestry Extension staff at the University of Georgia, has developed a self-taught web-based course in the Economics of Longleaf. The course seems easy to open and use and allows users to back up and listen to the presented information several times, if needed. A spreadsheet calculates “economic metrics like Net Present Value and Internal Rate of Return from longleaf investments. These spreadsheets can be manipulated by the user, offering the opportunity to alter costs, returns, and timing of management and harvests at the user’s will.” The course and spreadsheets can be accessed at http://lleconomics.sref.info/, or, for Continuing Education Credit, at http://cfegroup.org. Source: The Longleaf Leader, Spring 2014.

(4/16/14) "A property tax case [that could significantly raise forestland ad valorem taxes in Alabama] has taken a new turn when the plaintiffs filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the property tax case. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange representing Alabama taxpayers won the case in the Alabama Northern District Court and also at the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The attorneys for the plaintiffs argued Alabama’s property tax system is unfair to public schools attended by children in Alabama’s rural black belt. The plaintiffs are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to scrap Alabama’s property tax system. Attorney General Luther Strange will file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in response to this petition.” Source: National Federation of Independent Business Legislative Links, 4/16/14. See also, AL.com.

(4/15/14) Forecasts by Forisk Consulting were announced today concerning U.S. housing starts projections (Feb. 2014 projection of peak demand was lowered since Forisk’s Feb. 2013 projection), and the Panama Canal expansion and its implications for the U.S. forest industry (“…no material, measurable implications to timberland investors, forest industry firms, and timber prices.”). An archive of past Forisk Newsletters is at http://www.forisk.com/events-and-news/newsletter/.

(4/14/14) Preventing Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) outbreaks by encouraging landowners to reduce the susceptibility of their pines to beetle infestations is the announced purpose of the Alabama Forestry Commission’s (AFC) SPB Prevention Cost-Share Program. Applications are available at local AFC offices. The deadline to apply is May 30, 2014. The $160,000 was provided by the U.S. Forest Service.

(4/11/14) Alabama Voters this fall will get to decide whether the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife should be further "enshrined" as an amendment to the Alabama constitution (Voters will really be amending a previously passed amendment (#597 approved back in 1996). HB322 was sponsored by state Representative Mark Tuggle, (R, 81). The bill passed the House, 90 to 2 on March 13 and passed the Senate 32 to 1 on April 3. 

(4/10/14) Don’t take away our right to treat timber income as capital gains and our right to deduct tree planting and forest management expenses. That’s the message the Forest Landowners Association urges you to carry to your member of the U.S. House of Representatives while he or she is home April 11 through April 28. Find your representative

(4/9/14) Corky Pugh, former Director of the Alabama Freshwater Fisheries Division, in Great Days Outdoors, 4/14, recommends three books and urges readers to consider science and common sense when state rules and regulations are initiated. The books are Common Sense Wildlife Management by Nathaniel R. Dickinson, A Matter of Context (Pugh suggests reading Chapter 8, “Et Up With the Dumbs”) by Tom Kelly, and The Wild Turkey in Alabama by Steven Barnett and Victoria Barnett.
 

(4/8/14) Woodstoves have been in the news lately, thanks to new rules proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Paul LePage, Governor of Maine, wrote in The Wall Street Journal, 4/4/14, “An EPA proposal may end up increasing the amount of harmful smoke in the air.” The Southeast Missourian, 4/2/14, reported, “Members of the Missouri House of Representatives came together in a bipartisan effort … to approve a bill that prohibits the implementation of regulations on wood-burning heaters.” A woodstove that won a recent Popular Mechanics contest is the Soapstone Ideal Steel Hybrid. The Ideal Steel Hybrid draws “exhaust gases into a second chamber where temperatures reach 1800 F – hot enough to incinerate all particulates.”

(4/7/14) The Transformation of Timberland Ownership and Markets in North America – a lecture by Mike Covey, CEO of Potlatch Corporation at the University of Montana on March 12, 2014. Covey’s whole lecture should be interesting to forest owners, but if your time is limited, be sure to listen to the question and answer session from 54:15 to 56:45.

(4/4/14) “In upland hardwood forests of the Southeastern U.S., prescribed fire is increasingly used by land managers citing objectives that include hazardous fuels reduction, wildlife habitat improvement, promoting oak regeneration, or restoring forest composition or structure to an historic condition.” Source: Prescribed Fire in Upland Hardwood Forests, US Forest Service Science Update – 99.

(4/3/14) The American Farm Bureau is not happy with EPA’s proposed ‘Waters’ rule, released March 25, 2014. “The EPA proposal poses a serious threat to farmers, ranchers, and other landowners. Under EPA’s proposed new rule, waters – even ditches – are regulated even if they are miles from the nearest ‘navigable’ waters. … The American Farm Bureau Federation will dedicate itself to opposing this attempted end run around the limits set by Congress and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that Congress meant what it said: ‘navigable waters’ does not mean all waters. This proposed rule shows that EPA refuses to accept those limits.”

(4/2/14) If you are planning to build a trail or road on your land, you may want to review the information available in Trail Design for Small Properties by Baughman and Serres and A Landowner’s Guide to Building Forest Access Roads by Wiest. You may also find it useful to listen to road and trail discussions from past issues of Capital Ideas – Live!: Cam Lockwood, Troy Scott Parker, Rick Roark, Rans Thomas, Tom Sauret, and Brian Kramer.

(4/1/14) $250 million in legal costs – that’s the financial cost of Arizona’s Yarnell Hill Fire that resulted in the deaths of 19 firefighters last June. While it would be highly unlikely for 19 forest rangers to ever work together on one fire in Alabama, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea if legislation similar to that being debated in Arizona were discussed in Montgomery. The entire annual budget of the Alabama Forestry Commission is around $21 million.

(3/31/14) Environment of Uncertainty Undermines Economic Growth. Source: The EPA Administrator is a prankster by Reed Hopper in Liberty Blog 3/26/14

(3/28/14) The State of Oregon is making plans to sell state-owned forestland. We are told there was a large ad in The Wall Street Journal, 2/26/14, describing the sale. We suspect this land sale may be in some way related to the concerns of the GOP candidates for U.S. Senate in Oregon. See 3/18/14 below.

(3/27/14) Mineral Documentary Tax: If you own mineral rights that have been “severed” from the surface rights, you can pay the ad valorem taxes in a one-time lump sum of 15 cents per acre instead of paying an annual tax. Thanks to landman Mark Chapman for the information.

(3/26/14) Joe Hopkins, President of the Forest Landowners Association, will be leading the "My Vision for My Forestland" panel discussion at the 2014 Annual Meeting. Read his testimony on the Endangered Species Act given today, March 26, 2014, to the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry of the U. S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture.

(3/25/14) Robotic Tractor: Can it disc a green field? Can it mow roads and fire lanes? We wonder what would stop it from running over a child or pet?

(3/24/14) “Black Smoke on the Horizon.” The Alabama Senate Bill (SB411) that would have merged the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is dead, reports the Alabama Forestry Association in its March 21 blog, From the Weeds. BUT, the really interesting news in the blog is not the possible merger of the AFC into non-existence, but the budget cuts the Commission will face next year – 4 percent in FY2015 – and even bigger cuts, possibly 15%, in FY2016. If you were the State Forester, what would you cut? Fire suppression, prescribed burning services, Alabama's Treasured Forests magazine, wildfire prevention campaigns, Forest Inventory & Analysis, landowner advice and services, Champion Tree program, Tree Farm inspections, water quality complaints, Treasure Forest Certification Program support…?

(3/21/14) The National Timber Tax Website contains everything you ever wanted to know about federal income and estate taxes related to forestland. Previously hosted by Purdue University, the site is now hosted by the University of Georgia.

(3/20/14) "Boatright Companies to sell Montevallo railroad tie treatment facility" to Montreal-based Stella-Jones.

(3/19/14) Pine Sawtimber Prices Depend Heavily on Single-Family Housing Starts. Unfortunately, while housing starts are projected to increase for the next six to eight years, the numbers slowly decline after that. Get more details by listening to Kansas City Fed Economist Jordan Rappaport on AFOA's Capital Ideas - Live!, 3/19/14.

(3/18/14) Oregon GOP Candidates for U.S. Senate are sending a strong message to those who might believe federal forestland ownership is a good idea. Is there a message here for Alabama, where 94% of the forestland is privately owned? Source: The Westerner, 3/18/14, quoting from the Portland, Oregon Herald and News, 3/18/14.

(3/17/14) Letters were sent by AFOA to three candidates for Secretary of State asking the candidates to respond to a need for the Secretary of State’s website to publicly announce dates of Property Tax Referenda throughout the state. Property tax votes are usually held on odd dates, announced in local newspapers just days in advance, and experience very low voter turnout. We asked that special elections, primaries and runoffs also be accurately posted to the SOS website. The three candidates are Judge Reese McKinney, Judge Jim Perdue, and Rep. John Merrill (we did not find address information for Lula Albert-Kaigler). The first response to our letters is from Judge Reese McKinney: “Informing the public about election matters should be a priority for our chief elections official…As Secretary of State, I will see to it that we develop a first class web-based platform that becomes the source for election information on local, state, and national issues for the citizens of Alabama.”

(3/14/14) "For the fourth consecutive year, shipments of Southern Pine lumber recorded an increase from the previous year. Shipments in 2013 totaled 15.026 billion board feet (Bbf), an increase of 5% over the volume shipped in 2012 (14.279 Bbf) and 27% above 2009 shipments (11.79 Bbf)." Source: Southern Forest Products Association NewsNote, 3/6/14. The good news doesn't stop: In Woodworking Net, we read on 3/7/14, "U.S. hardwood lumber exports totaled a record 1.463 billion board feet in 2013, besting the previous one-year high set in 2006 by 11%. Record shipments to China and Vietnam, and the strongest shipments to Mexico in seven years, offset a 2% decline in exports to Canada and the slowest exports to Europe since 1986. It marked the fourth consecutive annual increase since exports bottomed out at 802 million board feet in 2009.”

(3/13/14) According to A Primer on State and Local Tax Policy published by Mercatus Research: Alabama is at the low end of Total State Tax Collections per Capita in the U.S. (page 32), BUT Alabama’s Property Tax Collections per Capita are much higher than our neighboring states (page 38). Interesting, too, Alabama’s Sales Tax Collections per Capita are lower than our neighboring states (page 37) and our Individual Income Tax Collections per Capita are higher than most of our neighboring states (page 36). The information reported by Mercatus Research is so different from what we read in many Alabama news sources that it’s hard to believe. Please let us know how it is in error. Thanks. rll@afoa.org

(3/12/14) The Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail now has a newsletter and a scheduled event (May 31-June 1 Hatchett Creek Canoe Float). The Trail consists of 34 birding sites in nine counties.

(3/11/14) From the Weeds is a new political news blog recently created by the Alabama Forestry Association (AFA). The blog will “provide legislative, legal and political matters of interest” to AFA members. We’re not sure if the blog will be password protected in the future, but it isn’t today. SB411, the bill that would merge the Alabama Forestry Commission into the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is the top story today. The 3/11/14 blog contains links to an analysis of the bill and a copy of the bill.

(3/10/14) “The Supreme Court sided today with a Wyoming landowner who challenged the Forest Service's construction of a bicycle trail on an abandoned railway that slices through his property…. The ruling is a broad victory for property rights activists. There have been many lawsuits filed challenging so-called rail trails under the Constitution's takings clause, which states that no property may be taken without just compensation. … potentially a third of the country's 270,000 miles of rail lies on rights of way granted under the law at issue in the case. Trails or highways built on that land are now susceptible to legal challenges, potentially putting the government on the hook for millions of dollars in settlements.” Source: E&E Publishing, LLC, 3/10/14. Click here for the Supreme Court’s ruling.

(3/7/14) “The expansion of the February deer season to cover most of Alabama south of Montgomery and a reduction in the daily bag limit for antlerless deer statewide were among the recommendations presented by the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division to the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board (CAB) for the 2014-2015 hunting seasons.” Click here to see a map of the recommended February deer season expansion. We thought you also might enjoy reading an opinion piece on hunting regulations by “legendary woodsman, author Tom Kelly:” Why ending Alabama’s fall turkey season is so completely preposterous.

(3/6/14) Free Market Environmentalists are invited to participate in "the 14th annual Enviropreneur Institute sponsored by the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). This two-week professional development program for entrepreneurs and conservation leaders will be held in Bozeman, Montana from July 17-18, 2014. The application deadline is March 17, 2014. A young person who dreams of improving wildlife habitat on family land, making possible successful guided hunts, a busy lodge and cabins, and even off-season trail riding and for-fee bird watching might be the perfect candidate for the Enviropreneur Institute. 

(3/5/14) The Alabama Forestry Commission may become a Division of the Alabama Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Industries if Senate Bill 411 becomes law. SB411 (117 pages) was passed out of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee today (with one amendment) to be debated at some future date in the full Alabama Senate. We heard that no comments from the public were allowed by the committee. We also understand that there is no companion legislation in the House. Send comments about the legislation, pro or con, to rll@afoa.org. Thanks.

(3/4/14) Aerogel, made from wood, may someday be used to clean-up oil spills. Watch Wisconsin Institute for Discovery video demonstration.

(3/3/14) North Alabama woodland owners may find the Tennessee Forest Products Bulletin a useful resource. Check out the price for Grade 1 White Oak Stave Logs (for whiskey barrels) ($950+ per thousand board feet (mbf), Doyle Rule) (page 4) compared to Miscellaneous Hardwoods, Region II ($167+ per mbf, Doyle) (page 6). Moving the tree species that remain on the land after thinning towards higher quality species holds potentially big rewards for landowners and their heirs.

(2/28/14) Talladega County passed a “Logging Notice Ordinance” that will go into effect on March 10, 2014. “The county now joins 15 others scattered across the state in requiring notification before logging on farm-to-market roads. Talladega’s version is basically a copy of that being used in the other counties.” The Alabama Loggers Council believes this ordinance violates state law (Act No. 2012-257) and goes beyond “notification” into the realm of “permitting.” If you would like to help the Alabama Loggers Council stop unnecessary regulations, contact Ray Clifton at (334) 265-8733 x 130.

(2/27/14) “Southern Pine exports finished 2013 at a volume approaching 445 million board feet (MMbf), a jump of 13% above the 2012 export total, according to the latest trade data released by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. That 2013 volume exported represents an increase of 43% above the 312 MMbf exported in 2010. The top three destinations for Southern Pine exports in 2013 were the Dominican Republic (69.9 MMbf), China (64.2 MMbf) and Mexico (60.7 MMbf).” Source: Southern Forest Products Association News Note, 2/26/14.

(2/26/14) "I shudder at the idea..." Vermont lawmakers are considering a bill that would require a permit for development within contiguous forest. The restriction on development rights is being done “to curb [forest] fragmentation.” In Colorado, a county government is using the power of eminent domain to take private forestland “to preserve open space.” The Colorado case received national attention on the February 21 Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren show.

(2/25/14) “The United States’ high tax burden on capital gains has long-term negative implications for the economy. This non-neutral tax creates a bias against savings, slows economic growth, and harms U.S.’s competitiveness,” reported the Tax Foundation in a February 11, 2014 paper entitled The High Burden of State and Federal Capital Gains Tax Rates. To make matters worse for forest owners, the U.S. Congress is considering removing timber income from long-term capital gains tax treatment.

(2/21/14) High school students who want to learn about forestry as a career are urged to sign up for Auburn University Summer Youth Program Forestry Camp. The camp will run from July 13 – 18. Tuition is $605. For more information about the camp, contact Dr. Becky Barlow at (334) 844-1019 or becky.barlow@auburn.edu. If you would like to donate a copy of the book, Managing Forests on Private Lands in Alabama and the Southeast, to be given to a camper upon completion of the camp, send your check in the amount of $60, made payable to Auburn University Foundation, to School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Attn: Heather Crozier, 602 Duncan Drive, Auburn University, AL 36849 or contact Heather at (334) 844-2791 or Sharon Tatum at (334) 844-1983 or sfwsdevelopment@auburn.edu.

(2/20/14) Alabama now officially has a new State Forester. Greg Pate was sworn in by Gov. Bentley on February 18th.

(2/19/14) The demand for furs is increasing as the "buyers in China, Russia, and Korea watch their incomes grow," reported The Missoulian on 12/26/13. The Alabama Trappers and Predator Control Association (ATPCA) reported to AFOA that there is a market for Alabama wild fur, the reporter having recently sold otter and beaver pelts. The ATPCA is planning to conduct a 3 day Trapper Education Workshop in Greenville, Alabama, February 21-23.

(2/18/14) AFOA has 10 copies (ALL HAVE BEEN DISTRIBUTED 3/14/14) of the Forest Landowners Guide to the Federal Income Tax, Ag Handbook No. 731, and will give them to AFOA members who pay shipping costs of $3.75 each. Make your check payable to AFOA and send to AFOA Tax Guide, P. O. Box 361434, Birmingham, AL 35236. If you don't need a hardcopy of the Guide, you can read it on line at www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/42921. Last year the Southern Research Station paid the cost of printing and AFOA paid shipping costs to provide copies of the Guide to more than 200 public libraries in Alabama.

(2/17/14) Firewood Ministry begun by the men’s ministry of the Ethelsville Baptist Church grows to cover several counties. 75 pickup loads of firewood were recently delivered to families in need. Source: McShan Plane Dealer, February 2014.

(2/14/14) “The greatest risk in timberland investing is paying too much for a property and this is driven largely by uncertainty around future timber volumes and values.” For an interesting discussion on investment risk, read Forest Research Notes, Vol. 10, No. 2. An archive to all past Forest Research Notes is at www.forestresearchgroup.com/newsletter.html.

(2/13/14) In a conversation last week with Extension Agent Beau Brodbeck, we asked him about Apps for iPhone or Android that would help landowners navigate around their properties – record paths where they walked or drove and mark special places like property corners. He quickly held out his smartphone with MotionX-GPS showing us the last few trails he followed on his morning exercise routes. If you know of an App that other forest owners might find useful, please write to AFOA at rll@afoa.org. (additional bio for Beau)

(2/12/14) Election results from February 4th. Mike Holmes, Tree Farmer, won the runoff in Alabama House District 31 (Elmore & Coosa counties) and, since there was no Democrat Party opposition, will complete the term of former Rep. Barry Mask. Margie Wilcox won the District 104 (Mobile County) special general election. Anthony “Alann” Johnson won the Democrat Primary Runoff for District 53 (Birmingham) and will face Republican Willie (W.A.) Casey in a special election on March 25. House District Map.

(2/6/14) You are invited to assist the Forest Landowners Association by nominating individuals for the following awards: Forest Landowner of the Year, Extension Forester of the Year, and Young Forest Landowner of the Year.

(2/5/14) Picture a Litter-Free Alabama is the theme for this year’s PALS (People Against a Littered State) Poster (K-6) and Essay Contests (7-12). Litter clean-up and prevention of trash dumping are important to forest owners. If your child’s or grandchild’s school participates in the contest, please take time to thank the teacher or administrator who makes it happen. Thanks too, to PALS.

(2/4/14) Congress passed the $956 billion Farm Bill today. The pony in the legislation (there must be one in there someplace) is “a provision preserving the treatment of forest roads and forest management as nonpoint sources subject to state-derived Best Management Practices (BMPs) under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).”

(2/3/14) Set to go into effect in second quarter 2014, a new biomass sustainability verification policy requires [UK] electricity generators to offer proof that the biomass they process originates in forests that are sustainably managed. ... Because the vast majority of timberland owners [in the US South] have small timber tracts—less than 50 acres—and because they make harvest decisions based on sawtimber markets in which no price premium for certified wood is offered, few will be inclined to submit to the certification process.” Source: The Wood Pellet Manufacturer’s Guide to Biomass Sustainability Verification by Suz-Anne Kinney, F2M Market Watch Blog, 11/25/13.

(1/31/14) Special Elections (see below) scheduled for Tuesday, January 28 were postponed to February 4 by Gov. Bentley due to the winter storm.

(1/27/14) Be sure to Vote Tomorrow if you live in these counties:
    • Mobile (Special General Election for Alabama House of Representatives District 104, formerly held by Jim Barton)
    • Coosa and Elmore (Republican Party Primary Election for Alabama House of Representatives District 31, formerly held by Barry Mask)
    • Jefferson (Democratic Party Primary Runoff for Alabama House of Representatives District 53, formerly held by Demetrius Newton)

(1/24/14) “USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service recently reported exports of Southern Pine to be approximately 41.3 million board feet (MMbf) for November 2013. This volume represents an increase of 23% above the same month last year, supporting a solid year-to-date boost of 16% when compared with the first eleven months of 2012. Offshore shipments during November roughly break down as follows: 23.9 MMbf dressed, 8.9 MMbf rough, and 8.5 MMbf treated lumber.
    “Softwood lumber imports to the U.S. during November were just over 985 million board feet (MMbf), up 13% from the volume imported during November of 2012. Canada shipped approximately 955 MMbf into the U.S. in November. For the first eleven months of last year, the volume of imports remained steady, running 15% ahead of the rate recorded during the first eleven months of 2012.” Source: Southern Forest Products Association Newsletter, January 21, 2014.

(1/23/14) How might a pine tree grown by a gray haired Alabamian be related to a Chinese manufactured smart phone used by a text messaging, 20-something Londoner? I Pencil, The Movie, may help you appreciate the small but very significant role we, forest landowners, play in producing many important products used here in Alabama and all over the world. You may also find valuable a series of video commentaries featuring, among others, Samford University Professor Art Carden.

(1/22/14) Back to the Cabin: More Inspiration for the Classic American Getaway by architect/author Dale Mulfinger, is available on Amazon.com. $24.59 hardcover, $15.39 Kindle. “In this new collection of 37 cabins, Mulfinger rekindles his love for this treasured American icon with fresh insight and seasoned strategies for the logic, utility, and beauty of cabin design.”

(1/21/14) Utah Prairie Dogs and Dusky Gopher Frogs in Louisiana are protected by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. If the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake and the Gopher Tortoise are declared threatened or endangered in South Alabama, can we expect different behavior from the agency? Watch Shoot, Shovel & Shut-Up.

(1/20/14) Delta National Park Study Stopped. The Save Our Delta group was able to convince Rep. Bradley Byrne to request removal of Alabama from H.R. 3131, The National Park Service Study Act of 2013. Listen to an AFOA interview with David Peterson, head of Save Our Delta. On January 17, Peterson wrote on the Save Our Delta Facebook page: “I urge any of you to email Congressman Byrne and thank him for his efforts to stop the attempted Federalization of the Delta. Click on the following link and it will take you to his website and click the contact link. http://byrne.house.gov/.”

(1/17/14) Tax reform targets include 1031 property exchanges, NewsOK, 12/14/13, will worry you if you plan to use the tax-free exchange provision of the tax code to defer income tax from land sales. See also, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Proposes Repeal of Like-Kind Exchange Deferral and Other Changes Affecting Real Estate, BakerHostetler, 1/7/14

(1/14/14) Construction of a wood pellet mill is being considered in Childersburg, Alabama. If built, the mill will export wood fuel to Great Britain. Source: The Daily Home, 11/27/13

(1/13/14) Lynch Lawsuit Decision: Home owners and forest and farmland owners will be happy to know that a "federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit challenging Alabama's property tax structure and has kept intact one of the nation's lowest tax rates." Had we lost this case, forestland property taxes could have increased significantly. Source: Montgomery Advertiser, 1/10/14. More information is available from the Alabama Forestry Association.

(1/10/14) Let's not let this happen in Alabama. "A Virginia county barred a landowner from allowing a friend to camp on his 86-acre farm for a hunting excursion... The county, in southeast Virginia, contends that use of the camper would constitute an unauthorized 'campground' in violation of local zoning ordinances." Source: WND Politics, 1/7/14

(1/9/14) Prescribed Burning Insurance Available to Foresters. “All certified or graduate foresters can apply for commercial general liability insurance. A forester’s special liability form is available with limits up to $1.0 million. The forester’s special liability coverage includes herbicide application, prescribed burn liability, smoke liability, and professional errors and omissions. Master policies can also be issued to consultant foresters and wildlife biologists who burn for multiple landowners.” Call Outdoor Underwriters at 1-866-961-4101. Source: The Longleaf Leader, Winter 2013.

(1/8/14) Under threat of elimination by Congress as part of a tax reform discussion, capital gains tax rates are also, unfortunately, effectively boosted by inflation. Source: Tax Foundation, 12/17/13

(1/7/14)Ensure Sustainability with a Timber Sale Contract. The way that timber is sold in the US South provides a strong legal framework for ensuring that harvests are being conducted in a sustainable fashion. The process for selling timber and the documentation that accompanies it — the timber sale contract — are critical for demonstrating not only the legality of the sale but that all laws and best management practices are being followed as well.” Source: F2M Market Watch Blog, 12/10/13

(1/6/14) “Drone for aerial photographs and video” to improve service to clients was among the new investments made by Tutt Land Company’s Sean Brown, as listed in an email sent by Sean this morning. For a demonstration of “drone for aerial photographs and video,” make plans now to attend the Alabama Forest Owners’ Association’s Annual Meeting at Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge, April 25-26. Make room reservations by calling (256) 505-6621 or (256) 571-5540 (after hours or weekends). To receive our special rate be sure to mention Alabama Forest Owners' Association - market code 3654. Most attendees will make room reservations for Friday night only, but some will stay Saturday night to enjoy the park for a few hours on Sunday.

(1/3/14) Movement to Create a Mobile-Tensaw Delta National Park could remove quarter million acres from property tax rolls, timber production, and hunting. “If they had done this in ’79 there would be no ThyssenKrupp steel mill,” [David Peterson] said. “That would come off our tax rolls, would take ad valorem tax away from our schools, hunting and fishing would be more restrictive, you would have to buy state and federal licenses. There would be severe restrictions on where you can and can’t run your boat and put massive restrictions on what we can or can’t do.” Source: Should the delta become a national park?, Lagniappe, 11/14/13
 

(1/2/14)Alabama is doing its part in utilizing renewable energy sources including, of course, biomass. This is largely based on the long practice of paper and wood production companies using woody debris and wood waste to generate electricity for their facilities. Among other interesting facts noted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration recently, is that Alabama ranked fifth in the United States in net electricity generation from wood waste, landfill gas, and other biomass in 2011; virtually all of that electricity was generated by non-utility power producers.” Source: AFA Newsroom, January 1, 2014.