The U.S. Forest Industry is Failing.....
(We do have an alternative - read on!)

The current forest management system in the U.S. has always been dysfunctional (reaching only a very small percentage of forest owners) – but has managed to exist for the past 100 years as the “right thing to do”.  It is now facing its’ biggest challenge ever.  A significant collapse of our once strong timber industry is underway, due to global competition, threatening the meager attempt at sustainable forestry that the ‘profession’ has been able to 'duct-tape' together so far.

Compared to forest management in Germany, the Menominee Tribal Forests in NE Wisconsin, and a few other good examples of forest stewardship –
forest management on private woodlands in the U.S. is dismal to non-existent. 

Less than 1% of American woodlot owners actively manage their timber in a business like way; knowing what they own and making significant money for their efforts. 

A few percent truly love their land and actively do many things with their forest.  Tree planting is a common practice, though few learn to take care of the young trees.

A few percent of forest owners take advantage of free advice and grants from government programs and manage in a mediocre manner, as the programs and professional personnel constantly change.  Many follow the teachings that “mature trees” should be harvested to regenerate their forests.

A larger contingent of landowners has recently joined the forest management programs due to quickly rising land costs and property taxes.  They want the property tax breaks offered by the State for “sound management” and often have to sell timber just to afford to own their land.

Timber is for the Taking
The American timber industry was built in the 1800s on the taking of old growth timber to clear the land for agriculture and development.  “Timber is for the Taking” is the dominant attitude in the industry yet today, even though most of our supply now comes from small private woodlots.   

The Supply of high quality timber has traditionally exceeded the Demand for wood products, resulting in very low values for timber harvests on private lands.  Forest owners have never seen timber crops as a profitable business – unique in all of agriculture - resulting in gross mismanagement of this important resource. Recent fancy PRopaganda campaigns about “Green” “Certified” “Sustainable Forestry” attempt to gloss over the real problems in the woods.

Competition in the Markets
When I began working as a forester 30 years ago, forest owners around here sold their timber to the local sawmill.  There was no significant competition for timber and nearly all logs were sawn at the local mill.   Forest owners usually sell timber when enough trees are merchantable to make it worth while to have a logger come in and cut.  Some money is better than nothing, so forest owners would take what they could get.  

In the past, there was a local timber price, set by the local sawmill.  One sawmill owner in Sauk City told me thirty years ago, “I pay $1 per tie log (40bf), that is all I have ever paid, that is all I will ever pay.”  His local forest owners never knew he resold the good stuff for veneer logs, many of which were exported to foreign countries.  He died a rich man though by looking at his sawmill you would conclude that he was barely scraping by!  A few years later, the owner of the mill just up the highway told a meeting of forest owners, “You should sell to the local sawmill” as if it was there responsibility to subsidize his business. 

I was the first consulting forester to work in Southern Wisconsin to help forest owners mark timber they wanted to sell and solicit competitive bids to get the best price possible.  Increased local competition quickly tripled the going rate for standing timber, but that was not enough to encourage responsible management. Initially, exporting logs brought a little more income to the region – as the foreign corporations were willing to pay more than the American companies, but selling off our best timber is not wise in the long run!

Today, there is no timber “market” price.  For any other agricultural crop, even “pork bellies”, you can listen to the radio, look at the newspaper or TV news. and find today’s market price.  But there is no market price for timber. 

The price of timber is established by an agreement between a very experienced timber buyer and a totally inexperienced timber grower.  In the end, the actual total dollars paid is often much less than the grower expected.  This marketplace is a huge discouragement to responsible forest management!!

In one way, the industry is totally businesslike in working very hard to get their raw materials for the lowest cost possible.  If they can get the forest grower to give them their timber at below the cost of growing the logs – that is just good business!!  You Bet!!

But, if that practice in the long run discourages the timber growers from producing good quality crops in the future, maybe it is not so smart a policy?? 

Maybe if they really worked together, both the grower and the industry could make money? 

Well, it is too late for all that.

Today in Wisconsin and the U.S.;
Our forests have been plundered – over-harvested and high-graded. 
Supply of good timber no longer exceeds Demand!!
Our timber industry is selling out to foreign corporations who are selling off the lands and other assets, closing down production lines, laying off workers, taking their corporate  profits, and soon will move South too – leaving our mills and State resource – trashed!

For as long as I can remember, the labels “made in Japan” then “made in China” have been the symbol of cheap stuff in the stores – but never a real threat to America.

But now it is real.  Now it is personal!

30 years ago, some regional competition for private timber sales was a good thing for the forest owner.  Increased stumpage values quickly helped landowners.

Today, global competition from imported wood products is not a good thing for the American forest owner.  This is now putting great pressure on the U.S. timber industry to cut their costs.  To reduce what they pay for the raw material is an obvious top priority and an easy start.  This force outweighs the expected increase in prices now that our local supply no longer meets local demand.  At the moment, Global Supply from exploitive harvesting exceeds market demand – timber prices everywhere are falling.  Once the temporary glut is gone, we will all lose!

The playing field is not even!  China, Indonesia, Philippines….   And the Rainforest regions….  Just like 150 years ago here – “Timber is for the taking” and “Forests are in the way of agriculture and development”.   And labor is cheap and people still do manual labor. 

The U.S. timber industry is starting to fall apart.  Fragmentation of the forest for development adds to the above issues, the American philosophy of a small profit on a large volume – using big machines – is not sustainable!  They can’t compete with foreign corporations with access to large tracts of virgin forest for merely the price of a bribe to a government official.

Homo Sapiens are being Homogenized
Global Equalization is in progress – those with less will gain and those with excess will lose. 
Homo Sapiens on this planet are being Homogenized by Globalization! 
Where will you be affected?

Americans are in real trouble – we are spoiled!  We are lazy!  We have allowed immigrants and illegal aliens to do our manual labor jobs for decades, but now that our high tech jobs are outsourced to China, India…..  things will change much more quickly.

The trend of Big Corporations dominating our lives
is not taking us in the right direction! 

Today, I went shopping at a bustling WalMart on the edge of a small city 25 miles from here.  I love a cheap price just like anyone else, and electronics & massed produced stuff is less expensive than at a local small business.  We then drove through the downtown and it was pretty much deserted.  It was like going to a museum of small town America.  This place has been gutted by the Big Box Store.  I feel guilty for shopping there, but what choice do I have? 

We do have an Alternative.
In our forest to finished flooring business, we eliminate all the middlemen and shippers.  We do the manual labor of felling timber, sawmilling, manufacturing, installing….   We offer knowledge and service. We earn a good wage and our business makes a profit.
We keep all the money local.

I don’t charge any more than the Big Box Store.  I can offer real wood at the same price as globally engineered “green” manufactured phony phorest products.

I can compete globally by working direct with the homeowner.
But can China compete with Timbergreen??   No Way!

Natural, Local, Real Wood will always be in demand – if people know that it is available! 
Direct marketing to customers offers hope for the timber grower.

For Global Good – Use Local Wood.  It’s a start