Report suggests Arkansas’ timberlands continue to thrive

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 415 views 

Arkansas’ forested lands remain robust and have been cited as a key reason why a Chinese paper goods manufacturer decided to locate a $1.8 billion facility in Arkadelphia.

Arkansas has about 19 million wooded acres, about 56% of the state’s land area, according to the recently published Forest Inventory and Analysis report. Arkansas has 11.9 billion trees, and has about 1 million more forested acres.

Hardwood trees account for 58% of varieties in the state, and pine (41%) is the state’s most prevalent type of tree. The most forested county in the state is Dallas County (92%), while Mississippi County (5%) remains the least, according to the report. Growth rates continue to outpace removal rates among hardwoods, the report noted. About 69% of timberlands are privately owned, while 13% are national forest lands, the most among southern states. About 12% are dedicated to the forest industry.

“This data is the only statewide forestry-specific information of its kind. It is paramount to forestry and conservation agencies who monitor forest health and protect us from wildfires, and to forest industry partners seeking locations for growth based on the availability of high quality timber,” state forester Joe Fox said. “This data proves that Arkansas forests are healthy, productive, and fast-growing, which makes us the prime location for new investments, partnerships, and products for the forest industry in the south.”

Chinese-based Sun Paper is building a $1.8 billion plant in Clark County in Arkansas’ so-called “wood basket.” The Southwest, Ozark, and Ouachita regions contain 88% of the state’s forested land. The company needs large amounts of pine for its products and the amount of pine grown in the state has expanded in recent years.

Arkansas Forestry Commission officials say between 2013 and 2017, Arkansas grew approximately 25.8 million tons of pine timber. Roughly 17 million tons of pine timber were harvested during that period, according to the report. Sun Paper could use up to 4 million tons of pine timber per year, according to the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

The proposed mill will be able to use in production all of the region’s huge inventory of unused forest dregs, logging leftovers, imperfect commercial trees, dead wood and other non-commercial trees that need to be thinned from crowded, unhealthy, fire-prone forests, according to the company.

FIA data is obtained from more than 4,000 permanent inventory plots across the state. FIA foresters collect measurements on 20% of the plots annually and generate state-specific forest data that is reported to the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station.

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