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Archived 2015 News, Issues & Information

(12/30/15) Although black bears are not common in Alabama, they are present in some areas. Remember that they are not harmless cuddly teddy bears, as this incident in New Jersey reminds us.

(12/29/15) "It is time to admit the Endangered Species Act’s penalty-based approach is a mistake, end this country’s senseless 42-year war on its most vulnerable species and chart a new, successful course for endangered species conservation based on a new approach that has been around for a long time."

(12/28/15) It's too easy to grow trees for 30 years, only to make disastrous choices at the end. Watch this video from the University of Kentucky if you're thinking of making a timber sale.

(12/22/15) Some take-aways from last week's "omnibus" funding bill:

(12/21/15) "I think it is completely indefensible that the federal government is America's largest landlord," Cruz said in this video at The Westerner.

(12/18/15) We thought you might like this newsletter from the Southern Christmas Tree Association. Note the ads in the newsletter for equipment and supplies you may need if you decide to grow Christmas trees.

(12/17/15) According to the American Land Rights Association (ALRA), "The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the enemy of rural America, ranching, farming and private land ownership." ALRA would like you to "Call your Congressman to oppose reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund as a permanent Trust Fund. Call any Congressman at (202) 225-3121." Read ALRA's recent email for details.

(12/16/15) “After you have harvested several deer from your ground blind, you might wonder why you don’t hunt this way more often.” One hunter says ground blinds offer safety, concealment, and ease of set-up. Read the full story at Georgia Forestry Today, page 27.

(12/15/15) “Landowners may face different types of eminent domain situations with local utility companies or government agencies [called the “condemning authority”] that will take private land for public use [think power lines or pipelines], with payment or compensation.” Here are tips to consider if you find yourself in this situation (Source: Georgia Forestry Today, p. 14):

  1. How did the condemning authority arrive at its offer amount? Request a written summary of the appraiser’s valuation. 
  2. Request a drawing or map identifying the land being acquired. Is the location of the land being acquired established or is the location subject to change?
  3. Is the land going to be owned by the condemning authority, or is it acquiring a permanent easement and/or temporary easement?
  4. What use limitations will the landowner be subject to with regard to the land being acquired?
  5. Did the landowner have any plans to use his/her land for any particular purpose?If so, will the acquisition impact the future planned use?
  6. What impact will the loss of land have on the value of the remaining land?
  7. If the land being acquired does not abut a public road, how will the condemning authority gain access to the land being acquired, and is the landowner being compensated for that access right?
  8. Most of all, contact an attorney and a local appraiser with expertise in condemnation law. This is a complicated area of the law with many pitfalls for the unwary landowner.

(12/14/15) If a gas tax increase is enacted, we hope rural roads and bridges will get a fair proportion of the new revenues. Hear an interview with DOT director John Cooper about ATRIP, rural roads and bridges, and how this affects you as a landowner.

(12/11/15) Seedlings need to experience cold weather acclimation to withstand freezing and below-freezing temperatures, says an alert from the Southern Forest Nursery Management Co-op. Warm days and nights before a freeze can compromise dormancy, especially in pine seedlings. Take special care with your seedlings this winter, and learn more about how to protect them with tips from SuperTree seedlings.

(12/10/15) Message to Lawmakers and Government Procurement Officials buying lumber and other construction materials made from wood: Buy the best quality products at the lowest possible prices. We have been watching various “certification schemes” pressuring government agencies and lawmakers to reject lumber and other forest products not blessed by their particular organization. Please ignore emotional pleas from Forest Stewardship Council, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, American Tree Farm System, and others. Buy the best quality wood product at the lowest possible price, whether “certified” by one of these schemes or not.

(12/9/15) The Agriculture and Rural Crime Unit (ARCU) currently has 12 agents assigned throughout the state. Click here for a map of agent location and contact information. The stats listed below are for FY2015 ARCU (the timber cases only include Jan-Oct 2015, after consolidation with Alabama Forestry Commission’s law enforcement personnel). Editor’s note: If you called ARCU to report a timber theft in the past 11 months, were you satisfied with their handling of your problem? Write to AFOA at

  • Cases: Total 277
  • Property Crimes Cases – 200
  • Animal Crime Cases – 85
  • Timber Crime Cases – 10 (all of these cases were resolved by the parties involved or turned out to be civil cases)
  • Other Cases – 82
  • Calls for Service: Total 165 (calls phoned into the hotline [1-855-75-CRIME] or ALEA dispatch)
  • Property Crime Calls – 27
  • Animal Crime Calls – 95
  • Timber Crime Calls – 36
  • Other Crime Calls - 7

(12/8/15) Thinking about a family trip to cut a Christmas tree? Here are a few places in Alabama to choose and cut your own tree. (Full list at Southern Christmas Tree Association):

(12/7/15) "The [Pacific Northwest] fires have been in the mainstream news for months, but a recent Wall Street Journal piece about the “controversial” subject of forest thinning and its impact on fire suppression simply gets it wrong. In the article, journalist Jim Carlton failed to discuss the myriad benefits that regular thinnings have on the overall health of our forests and their peripheral ecosystems, wildlife habitats, and the safety and economic wellbeing of the communities that border them." Read the six reasons thinning trees is good for the forest here.

(12/4/15) Treat your venison right: “Sometimes you’ll get a gamey flavor if you don’t get it on ice and get it processed right. If you process it right, you’re going to get great flavor from your venison.” Find out how to age venison for great flavor and other tips here. Source: Outdoor Alabama. Past outdoor essays from David Rainer.

(12/3/15) Intended as a comprehensive and authoritative history, "Forestry in the U.S. South explores the remarkable commercial and environmental gains made possible through the collaboration of industry, universities, and other agencies." Purchase directly from the Forest History Society here.

(12/2/15) A new Aunt Fanny essay makes sense of housing reports and Timber REITs.

(12/1/15) Deer farmers and the state of Texas are battling over actions taken to manage Chronic Wasting Disease in whitetail deer. CWD poses a serious threat to deer species and hunting-related activities and income in the states where it is found.

(11/30/15) Landowners can submit comments here until December 11, 2015 regarding the Sabal Trails Pipeline Project, a 515-mile natural gas transmission pipeline. “Roughly 86 of those miles are located in Alabama. The current study corridor affects four counties in Alabama, including Tallapoosa, Chambers, Lee and Russell Counties.” Source: The South Next Month, Jim Noles, Balch & Bingham LLP.

(11/24/15) "A country’s long-term “potential” growth rate depends on two things: the number of workers, and how productive they are. Slower population growth directly chips away at the number of workers." We thought this was interesting in light of the housing reports this month.

(11/23/15) This interactive Federal Footprint map is an interesting, detailed look at land owned by the U.S. government. "The feds control a lot of land and shouldn’t be rushing out to add more territory and responsibility. In these days of budget deficits and spending cuts, the federal government clearly is becoming hard pressed to manage what it already owns." Source: Ketchican Daily News, 11/21/15

And another perspective on federal land ownership from our friends at the Property and Environment Research Center.

(11/20/15) More housing numbers: "Forisk projects 12.1% growth over 2014."

(11/20/15) "Georgia-Pacific last week announced plans for $110 million in upgrades to its Alabama River Cellulose (ARC) mill in Monroe County." Work will begin in early 2016, and is expected to take 18 months. Source: Yellowhammer News, 11/19/15

(11/18/15) A new report says wood pellet export markets pose no threat to the sustainability of U.S. Southern forests or the viability of other forest products manufacturers. In fact, removals for export pellet production represented .08% of the total forest inventory in 2014. Source: National Alliance of Forest Owners, 11/18/15.

(11/16/15) “Alabama timber, forestry industry may get big worker boost with new state grant.”

(11/13/15) According to the European Food Safety Authority, glyphosate/Roundup “is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.” This news should bring relief to many forest owners, who use Roundup for a variety of forestry uses, after a March 2015 World Health Organization report, based on “limited evidence of carcinogenicity,” classified glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

(11/12/15) Virginia Tech’s latest housing report remains dismal and provides little hope for a quick upturn in sawtimber stumpage prices. On the other hand, while American’s are not building as many single family homes as they were pre-recession, we are slowly recovering from the recession lows – lows that are very high for much of the rest of the world.

(11/10/15) The EPA wants information from the public on any ongoing efforts to address stormwater discharge from forest roads to determine whether additional measures to protect water quality are necessary. Since these “additional measures” could include regulations or a permitting program imposed on the owners of forest roads, consider whether you want to take advantage of this opportunity. Such input could very well shape any future regulatory rulemaking on this topic. Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA–HQ– OW–2015–0668, to the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Read the entire announcement from the Federal Register. (1/5/15) Update: Comment period has been extended to Feb. 11

(11/9/15) The two biggest publicly traded forest landowners in the U.S. will merge. Weyerhaeuser is buying Plum Creek for $8.4B to form timber giant.

(11/6/15) Prescribed Grazing is a term we hadn’t heard before for using goats and other livestock to control unwanted vegetation. A Google search found Rent A Goat, unfortunately based in North Carolina, but with a focused message that will be of interest to anyone in Alabama who is thinking about setting up a prescribed grazing business. A 2010 WBHM story, Rent-a-Goat Business Takes Off, featured Todd & Allison Sluiss. The Michigan couple were also featured in a Farm Show article back in 2009. At that time they charged $300 per day with a 2-day minimum. Goat Busters were used in 2014 to clear privet and other brush and vines on Birmingham’s Red Mountain Park.

(11/5/15) Could an organized, well-informed group of forest landowners harm local wood markets? That is the interesting situation described in Antti Kämäräinen's recent Forest2Market Blog, "The Cost of Market Power: When is Too Much Market Power Detrimental to a Market’s Global Competitiveness?"

(11/4/15) Cogongrass, a weed that burns hot enough to kill mature pines, now infests over 65,000 acres in the South, and is, unfortunately, common in south Alabama. Herbicides applied in late April and late September have proven to be the most effective form of eradication. "The two herbicides currently being used are 41% glyphosate [Roundup] and 52% imazapyr [Arsenal]. A good tank mix is two quarts of glyphosate and 12 to 15 ounces of imazapyr per 25 gallons of water. Adding a non-ionic surfactant at one pint per 25 gallons, or AMS (ammonium sulfate) at five pounds granular per 25 gallons can increase herbicide efficiency." For more details about identification and control, go to Source: Great Days Outdoors, 11/15.

(11/3/15) The White Fringeless Orchid has been proposed for the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The orchid has been found in 8 Alabama counties: Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, DeKalb, Jackson, Marion, Tuscaloosa, and Winston. Since forestry practices may cause modification of the orchid’s habitat that could harm individual plants, forest owners may want to learn more about the proposed listing, and possibly send comments to the Fish & Wildlife Service before the November 16, 2015 comments deadline. See 9/14/15 press release for contact information.

(11/2/15) Timber Markets In a Nutshell: pine stumpage prices down; hardwood stumpage prices up -- more or less. Source: Forest2Market Blog, US South Stumpage Market Trends: YDT 2015 Results and Historic Data by Daniel Stuber, 11/15.

(10/30/15) "US Department of Agriculture Terminates Consideration of Hardwood Checkoff." "Based on comments received, outstanding substantive questions and significant proposed modifications from stakeholders, USDA is terminating the proceeding." Many of the wood processors were so unhappy with the proposed tax that they created a website entitled Editor's note: While stumpage growers (landowners) do not directly pay the tax (the check-off is paid by the wood processors), the burden of the tax falls directly on stumpage growers, since payments for standing timber tend to be the amount left over after costs of producing lumber and plywood are covered. Stumpage growers would not have been given a seat on the decision making board, if the checkoff had been imposed.

(10/29/15) A Tree Identification webinar kicked off a series of webinars designed for woodland owners in Kentucky. The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service webinars will continue on October 29, November 12, November 19 and December 1. More details including registration information is available on the UKAgNews website.

(10/28/15) Aunt Fanny Learns Forestry: Managing Timberland as an Investment "highlights the key obligations, risks and metrics for owning and managing timberland investments. The book serves any investor, from individual to institution, interested in a tight and entertaining tutorial for prioritizing what matters and what does not when managing their timber assets as an investment." $12 from Forisk Consulting. To read some of the Aunt Fanny essays click here and here.

(10/27/15) Protect your home from wildfires: "Roof Saver Sprinklers® wet roofs, gutters, decks, surrounding trees, and shrubs."

(10/26/15) "Understory Prescribe Burns: Understory burns in pine plantations are typically conducted during the dormant season. Now is the time to begin planning for those burns. Install firelanes after leaf fall and have both a prescribe burn and smoke management plan prepared by a Certified Burn Prescriptionist." Source: Newsletter of Forest Management Specialists, Inc., Vol. 2, Issue 3. Other topics in the newsletter include Timber Market Update, Focus Industry, Timber Sales, Boundary Line Maintenance, and Mineral Leases.

(10/23/15) Letters to Dad is a short video created by the Paper Check-off as part of a consumer campaign to "slow the decline in paper usage." A check-off for softwood lumber similar to the Paper Check-off has been opposed by Resolute Forest Products, Inc., as an unconstitutional tax. A hardwood check-off under discussion has been reduced in size so much as a result of complaints that "it would exclude over 80% of the hardwood forest products industry," and be "severely underfunded." Source: Timber Mart-South ~ Market News Quarterly, 3Q15. 

(10/22/15) Helpful fire weather links are available at the Alabama Forestry Commission website. Even if you're not planning a prescribed burn, we think you'll find some of this data fascinating.

(10/21/15) The domestic cat is the top killer of America's native birds. A new study suggests that even with this knowledge, cat owners are unwilling to restrain their cats to protect wildlife. Source: Great Days Outdoors magazine, October 2015

(10/20/15) We hate to bring up western fires again, but they are costing you. "Sometimes the science really has to matter." "By shifting the blame to climate change [politicians] think they can avoid taking responsibility for their action."

(10/19/15) Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forest by Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel may be of interest to some Alabama forest owners, even though the authors' target audience are forest owners in the northern U.S.

(10/16/15) Confiscatory Property Taxes Push Wisconsin Forest Owners into Untenable Position. In order to avoid very high forestland property taxes, many Wisconsin forest owners signed on to the Managed Forest Law program which reduced property taxes, but also forced participants to open their lands to public access. Now a district court has "approved regulations allowing Wisconsin's Lake Superior Chippewa Indians to conduct night hunting for deer on lands open to public hunting (including Managed Forest Law "open" lands)..." Source: Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association, 10/14/15.

(10/15/15) Trump: Eminent Domain, Even For Private Projects Is ‘Wonderful Thing,’ ‘You’re Not Taking Property’  Source:, 10/6/15.

(10/14/15) Lyme Disease is present in 7 Alabama counties. They are Calhoun, Chambers, Jefferson, Mobile, Russell, Shelby, and Tuscaloosa counties, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

(10/13/15) The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals today stayed the waters of the U.S. rule issued by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that became effective on August 28. The court vote of 2-1 suspended the effectiveness of the rule nationwide. The following statement in response to the court’s decision was issued by Dave Tenny, President and CEO, National Alliance of Forest Owners:

“We are pleased the court took the prudent step of staying the rule while it sorts through the legal issues. The finding of the court that the petitioners have a strong likelihood of success on the procedural and substantive issues in the case is encouraging, but it will take time for the court to consider these issues individually. Postponing implementation of the rule pending a determination of its legality makes good sense. In the meantime, we continue to encourage Congress to enact legislation that will enable all parties to take a fresh look at this issue outside of the courtroom.”

The next step in the case will be a decision by the Sixth Circuit as to whether or not that court has jurisdiction to review the validity of the rule. Source: National Alliance of Forest Owners, 10/9/15. See also: The Washington Times, 10/9/15.

(10/12/15) Alabama's Pickens County 4-H Forestry Team earned third place in the National 4-H Forestry Invitational held in Weston, West Virginia.

(10/08/15) "The black pinesnake, a burrowing constrictor found only in pine forests of southern Mississippi and Alabama, is now listed as threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday." Source:, 10/5/15. We understand that another 65 species in the southeast have been proposed for federal protection under the same lawsuit that forced the US Fish & Wildlife Service to consider listing the black pinesnake as threatened. See: Black Pine Snakes Protected Under Endangered Species Act: Declines Driven by Destruction of Southeast's Longleaf Pine Ecosystem.

(10/06/15) Is it reasonable to ask why government should be in the entertainment business? If entertainment is not an important function of government, why do we worry if several state parks will soon be closed? See: 5 Alabama state parks to close following budget cuts.

(10/01/15) "Cameras Will Soon Do The Job of Fire Tower Lookouts." Source:, 9/22/15.

(09/29/15) Poor forest management to blame for out-of-control western fires, says Capital Press, 9/24/15.

(09/27/15) Facing a 19.6 percent cut in state funding, "Alabama State Forester Greg Pate said the commission couldn't handle any cuts, especially one so drastic." Source: WSFA, 9/24/15. 

(09/25/15) Forest and Humans: From the Midwest to Madagascar is the focus of a University of Wisconsin "Massive Open Online Course," scheduled to begin on 9/30/15. "Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), are unique virtual teaching, learning and research experiences that are not for credit, aimed at unlimited participation and available at no cost to learners around the world." An introductory video about the course and enrollment information is at:  

(09/24/15) Three species of parasitoid wasps have been released in North America in an attempt to control the emerald ash borer, the "most destructive forest pest ever seen in North America."

(09/22/15) Flying Robot Spiders -- there must be some use for this technology in the forest.

(09/21/15) Forest Economist Dr. Jack Lutz discusses the growth of trees and the growth of stands of trees in Limits to [Tree] Growth, Forest Research Notes, Volume 12, Number 3. Be sure to look at Figure 2, which focuses on the value of planting, site preparation, competition control, fertilization, and tree improvement. (MAI = Mean Annual Increment)

(09/18/15) Seattle, USA. Softwood lumber prices (in US $) have fallen throughout a majority of the main markets in the world during the 2Q/15 because of weaker demand, ample supply throughout the distribution chain and a strengthening US dollar. The biggest declines have occurred in the US, Canada and the Nordic countries, while the drop in import prices to China and Japan has been more modest. Source: Wood Resource Quarterly Press Release, 9/16/15.

(09/17/15) U.S. Forest Service scientist not allowed to discuss federal fire policy. A paper written by the scientist, "Reform Forest Fire Management," says suppressing every fire in overgrown forests is not only expensive, but dangerous and ill-advised.

(09/10/15) More Aunt Fanny essays from Forisk Consulting: (see below)

(09/9/15) Private forestry plays a key role in in both Finland and the United States. "In Finland, 80 percent of the domestic wood used by the forest industry comes from privately owned forests. In the United States, the number varies by region, but is roughly 55 percent." Source: Forest2Market Blog by Antti Kamarainen.

(09/3/15) A gun law passed during the 2015 Regular Legislative Session went into effect Tuesday, after a bipartisan effort ushered through several significant reforms.
     The changes, sponsored by Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), were backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA).
     Governor Bentley signed the bill into law on June 4.
     “This is a victory for the Second Amendment and Alabama’s law-abiding gun owners”, said executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action Chris W. Cox. “Among other reforms, the new law gives young people greater opportunities to learn and enjoy our firearms and hunting heritage…” Source: Yellowhammer, 9/2/15

(08/31/15) Seven new Champion Trees were recently registered in Alabama's list of big trees. Two of the seven new champions have a good chance of being declared national champions next year - a post oak and a red hickory. Champion Trees of Alabama 2015 contains measurements of the largest trees by species recorded in Alabama and is published periodically by the Alabama Forestry Commission.

(08/28/15) Athens voters reject property tax increase.

(08/27/15) Tom the Sawyer was introduced to us in the latest issue of Independent Sawmill and Woodlot Management magazine and we thought you might like to visit Tom's Portable Sawmill Service webpage. One of the links on his Resources page is the "Portable Sawmill Finder" which can help you find portable sawmilling services here in Alabama and other states.

(08/26/15) IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN A HOLE...the first thing to do is stop digging. Good advice from the Property and Environment Research Center to the U.S. Congress as it debates whether to continue spending $900 million per year to acquire more land (Land & Water Conservation Fund, LWCF) while National Parks has an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog. Perhaps good advice, too, for Alabama lawmakers who are struggling to keep Alabama parks open while Forever Wild continues to spend millions of dollars every year on more land.

(08/25/15) Western Forest Fires: "Same sad stories, new year." If forest growth is not harvested, all that useful wood becomes nothing more than fuel. An opinion piece in The Washington Post (8/21/15) reviews "Five myths about wildfires," while a logger spokesman in Oregon (GoLocal, 8/21/15) points out, "When a fire starts on federal land, it is almost always bigger than one that starts on a private owned area."  "In fact, there are examples of fires that start on federal land and are very severe but once they get to private land, where forests are healthier, they weaken considerably."

(08/21/15) Will you be around long enough to enjoy your forestland?

(08/20/15) Four recent headlines:

(08/19/15) Choose loblolly pine seedlings resistant to fusiform rust to minimize future damage. ArborGen claims "breakthrough in rust resistance with genomics."

(08/18/15) "Louisiana-Pacific expanding Thomasville mill, adding 20 jobs." Source:, 8/5/15

(08/04/15) The U.S. South remains significantly cost competitive for delivered softwood fiber when compared to Coastal British Columbia, Scandinavia, U.S. Northwest, and New Zealand/Australia. Only Southern Brazil is close to us according to a chart in a F2M Market Watch article by Suz-Anne Kinney, Finnish Forestry Expansion: Increased Demand Affects Supply and Price.

(07/24/15) Need a land surveyor in Alabama? Use the Find a Surveyor webpage of the Alabama Society of Professional Land Surveyors. We selected "Marion" in the "Professional County" drop down menu and then clicked on the "Continue" button. In about 10 seconds Phillip Lindley's name popped onto the screen. When we hovered over his name with the mouse/cursor, Mr. Lindley's name, address, and phone number popped up. When we selected Talladega in Professional County, seven names popped up. A great service.

(07/23/15) "Threatened bats halt some timber projects." "Some members of the industry are already being affected, even with the interim rule in place. Five hundred timber projects that were to receive federal funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture, have been tabled for the summer. June and July are the months when the bats tend to raise their pups in the trees, and the NRCS has opted to err on the side of caution and stop funding all projects until the pup season ends." Source: North Andover, Massachusetts Eagle Tribune, 7/19/15.

(07/21/15) "Americans should not have to fear the government’s taking their homes, farms, or businesses to give to other persons. Governments should not abuse the power of eminent domain to force rural property owners from their land in order to develop rural land into industrial and commercial property. Congress has a duty to protect the property rights of rural Americans in the face of eminent domain abuse." Source: Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2015, a Bill introduced by James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI-5) in the 114th Congress, July 9, 2015.

(07/19/15) Walker County voters will decide whether to continue a 3 mill property tax on September 8. Original source: Daily Mountain Eagle, 7/14/15. The Daily Mountain Eagle has since removed the article, but we have posted a picture of it to AFOA's Facebook page. Baldwin County voters will make a similar decision on March 1, 2016. Source:, 6/16/15.

(07/17/15) "How much rain fell on my land during the last 24 hours?" If you have ever asked yourself that question, Intellicast might have an answer for you. Check out their 24 hour precipitation map here.

(07/13/15) State Budget Mess - Part II -- a morning commentary from forest industry lobbyist, Tom Saunders, in From the Weeds, July 13, 2015. You may also find Tom's commentary from June 16, June 12, June 10, and June 5 useful background information for what you will read or hear in the daily news duing the next 30 days.

(07/07/15) Hearing: The State of Property Rights in America Ten Years after Kelo v. City of New London, 2 PM Eastern Time on July 9, 2015 in 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC. Brian Seasholes, Reason Foundation, one of the witnesses, will focus on the impacts on property rights from the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. You can listen to the hearing on your computer.

(07/06/15) New housing starts down in May. Scroll down to slide 4. Source: Virginia Tech May 2015 Housing Commentary by Urs Buehlmann and Al Shuler. Archive of past reports.

(07/01/15) The Boutwell Family of Alabama were recently named Southern Regional Tree Farmers of the Year - 2015.

(06/30/15) "Adding more land to the federal estate is irresponsible when the government is failing to maintain the parks, forests and grazing lands it currently owns. Rather than using the conservation fund to acquire more land, Congress should use the money to help address the deferred maintenance backlog." Source: Property and Environment Research Center, 6/30/15.

(06/26/15) "Beetle Plague Spurs Canadians on U.S. Lumber-Mill Buying Spree." "Chased from their home forests by rising costs and a plague of tree-killing beetles, West Fraser Timber Co., Canfor Corp. and Interfor Corp. have been on a buying spree, doubling the number of mills they own in the South since 2009 to about 34. The Canadians are drawn by the region’s 210 million acres of fast-growing forests and expanding housing markets from Texas to Virginia to Florida, according to Brooks Mendell, president of Forisk Consulting, an Athens, Georgia-based timberland researcher." Source:, 6/22/15.

(06/22/15) The Case Against Pope Francis's Green Encyclical. Source: Anything Peaceful, 6/22/15.

  • Pope Francis: Let us realize, for example, that most of the paper that is produced is thrown away and not recycled.
  • Borders & Bier: So would Pope Francis have us burn fossil fuels to go around and collect processed pulp? Is he unaware that demand for paper is what drives the supply of new trees? We aren’t running out of trees because we throw away paper. The Pope’s plan sounds like it could have been hatched in Berkeley, California, instead of Vatican City.

(06/18/15) "On May 26, 2015, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a Notice of Intent (Notice) that initiated environmental review of a proposal to regulate the incidental take of most of the bird species found in the United States. In the Notice, FWS outlined a plan for development of a multi-layer permitting program under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), an almost 100-year-old statute designed to control poaching and commercial hunting." "The MBTA makes it a crime to 'pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill,' possess, sell, purchase, or ship any migratory bird or any part, nest or egg of a migratory bird." About 1,000 species of birds are included. FWS invites comments on their proposal through July 27, 2015. Source: Marten Law, June 17. 2015.

(06/15/15) Alligator hunting season in Alabama is just around the corner. Registration at is currently underway and will continue until 8 a.m. July 14, 2015. Hunters who draw tags are required to attend mandatory training classes. See (scroll down towards the bottom of the page) for mandatory class schedules and season dates. A 17-minute video in five segments has been developed for alligator hunters to watch online. Permit holders will then answer a series of questions related to the video.

(06/08/15) "2 Alabama ATV riders killed in 2 weeks, authorities share safety tips."

(06/05/15) A bipartisan effort to "preserve timberland tax provisions in an ongoing national tax reform effort" resulted in a June 3, 2015 letter sent by 80 Members of Congress to Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Paul Ryan and Ranking Member Sander Levin. Read an Alabama Forestry Association press release praising the leadership of Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell and the rest of the Alabama delegation. Read the letter here.   Editor's Note: While we appreciate the efforts made by our Members of Congress and the other 73 signers of the letter in our behalf, we couldn't help chuckling at the 4 words in fine print at the bottom of the first page of the letter: PRINTED ON RECYCLED PAPER. We wonder if it would be appropriate for a letter sent to a Congressional committee focused on agricultural issues to bear a message: EAT LESS CORN, or, in Congressman Ryan's case: EAT LESS CHEESE.

(06/02/15) Waters of the U.S.: "Congressman Gary Palmer spoke out this week against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest major regulation, which opponents say is a significant overreach of the bureaucracy’s power. Along with the Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA is seeking to redefine “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act to include small areas water collects or could collect, such as ditches, puddles and small ponds." Source: Yellowhammer, 5/29/15

(06/01/15) "Outpost Campsites" at Gulf State Park may be just the idea you've been looking for to add extra income from your forestland.

(05/29/15) A Key to Common Native Trees of Alabama, ANR-0509, was revised last year by Auburn University's Dr. Nancy Loewenstein. The 16 page publication contains good line drawings and a dichotomous key to help you identify 69 native trees. Open it in your tablet or print out a copy and take an educational walk in the woods.

(05/28/15) 2015 Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) Prevention Cost-Share Program. For a limited time, help is being offered to fight against the number one killer of pine trees in Alabama. Now through the end of June, technical assistance and financial incentives are available to help forest landowners across the state apply prevention practices to reduce the susceptibility of their pine stands to attack by southern pine beetle.

(05/26/15) Don't Write Off Paper Just Yet. Be sure to look at the top two lines in the graph, "Ten Years of Paper Production." Tissue and Containerboard -- diapers and cardboard boxes -- stable or slightly growing demand. Source: NPR, 5/26/15

(05/20/15) In his new book, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty without Permission, Charles Murray proposes "a declaration of limited resistance to the existing government." For a discussion of the book and to view an interview with Murray, read Thomas Firey's review, Insuring John Galt?.

(05/11/15) Tory win in United Kingdom may give Prime Minister Cameron the power to remove "...the 'green crap' that subsidises renewable power..." The U.K. is a major importer of wood pellets shipped from the Southern U.S. Government mandates in U.K. and other European countries force electric power producers there to use renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and wood pellets.

(05/05/15) No more public funds in tax increase referendums. "Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R), announced in a press conference Monday morning that he is personally filing a lawsuit to stop school boards from using taxpayer money to campaign for tax increases."
"It is estimated that the Baldwin County school board spent upwards of $1 million to campaign for the failed tax hike." Source: YellowHammer, 5/4/15.

(05/01/15) Time to Move on from the Endangered Species Act, an article on the Heartland blog, 4/30/15, concludes that authority over environment and land issues be returned to the states. We might suggest that authority over property should be returned to the millions of private owners who have a strong vested interest in caring for the land and the plants and animals that live on it. The constant grinding away of property rights by governments, large and small, must stop. Forest America Take Action on Black Pine Snake.

(04/30/15) From Fear to Facts: A Landowner's Perspective was produced by Michigan State University Extension to help forest owners overcome their fears of harvesting the trees they have grown. If you have never made a timber sale, this video may be useful to you.

(04/29/15) "Voters defeat tax increase in Lawrence County by landslide vote." Source: The Moulton Advertiser, 4/29/15.

(04/28/15) "Knowing the price paid for a timberland property does not tell us whether it was a good price or not. Just as with a house, we need to know where it is and what its physical attributes are. A good timber inventory is most important. A full inventory report will provide information on land types, timber volumes and sizes, site indexes and age class distributions." Source: Forest Research Notes, 1Q15.

(04/27/15) Legislation in Montgomery that we thought you might find interesting (there's lots more at From the Weeds, 4/27/15):

  • SB12 (Sandford) Allows General Fund to participate in growth tax revenues
  • HB135 (Clouse) General Fund Appropriations Bill that would cut budget by 11% from 2015. Forestry Commission would receive $1.7 million less than last year
  • SB227 (Singleton)/HB477 (Knight) Constitutional Amendment to increase property taxes statewide by 8.5 mills
  • HB485 (Melton) Perry County Constitutional Amendment raising ad valorem taxes by 3 mills

(04/24/15) Message to Governor Bentley: "Sell the Parks." AFOA received an email a few days ago that read: "One question that should be asked at this public meeting is -- 'Since the purpose of government is not to entertain, why doesn't the state sell the parks to private enterprise?' " "Bentley to address budget crisis, possible state park closures", source: The News Courier, 4/17/15.

(04/23/15) "Mortgage finance giant Fannie Mae just debuted its new 'HomePath Ready Buyer Program,' which lets first-time homebuyers get up to a 3% rebate of a home’s purchase price if they buy a Fannie Mae property, so long as they complete an online homebuyer education course which costs $75.00." "But is this new effort good for taxpayers and the economy, or is this similar to programs that led to the subprime mortgage crisis and housing crash? Is the federal government acting once again like the boozy bartender handing out free drinks at the frat party?" Source: FoxBusiness, 4/17/15.

(04/22/15) April 22 is Earth Day! Environmentalists and their friends may have brought us Earth Day, but please say it isn't true that big corporations and Republicans have forced upon us the demise of the incandescent light bulb. If a misguided Congress can take away light bulbs, it shouldn't be too hard for them to abolish capital gains treatment of timber sale income and expensing of forest management and tree planting costs -- in the name of tax reform. See: Paul Ryan  See: Orrin Hatch See: Forest Landowners Association - What is Tax a Expenditure?

(04/14/15) Death Tax Repeal Vote Scheduled for this week.

(04/13/15) "The Park Service gets around $2.6 billion to manage 84 million acres at 407 different sites, and includes Parks, Monuments and Wilderness areas. Congress, the administration and various lobbying groups keep telling us there is a huge demand for these type areas. If that be the case, why hire a private marketing firm to conduct a seven-year, multimillion dollar campaign to raise 'awareness' of these areas? Sorry, but this is all about current and future funding, i.e., money. First, they want to use the 100 year anniversary to obtain a substantial increase in their annual operating budget. Second, the dirty little secret is that youth and minorities make fewer visits to these areas than their national population would indicate, thereby becoming a threat to future funding. The future of the agency and the crony capitalists in the outdoor industry is at stake. Jarvis says they want a 'personal connection to the public.' They do. To your wallet and to Congressional coffers. Just wanted you to be 'aware' of that too." Source: The Westerner, Frank DuBois, 4/6/15.

(04/10/15) The Ecologically Destructive Tax: How the Federal Estate Tax is Ecologically Harmful and How to Fix It is the title of a Reason Foundation Working Paper by Brian Seasholes. "...because it is a working paper, comments/criticisms are welcome, as I will hopefully be turning this into a bit longer study," wrote Seasholes in a recent email note.

(04/09/15) Federal Land Acquisition and its Impacts on Communities and the Environment is the title of a public hearing to be conducted by the Subcommittee on Federal Lands of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. Visit the Committee Calendar for additional information, once it is made available. The meeting is open to the public and a live video stream will be broadcast at House Committee on Natural Resources. Contact: Committee Press Office (202) 226-9019.

(04/08/15) Senate Bill 116, sponsored by Arthur Orr, "Creates felony crime and penalties for hunting on land without permission." Source: From the Weeds, 4/3/15. The original bill was amended to include trespassing to catch fish as well as game.

(04/06/15) The U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "manage more than 100 million acres of timberland in the United States, yet both agencies lose money on their vast timber resources. Simply put, these losses are the result of high management costs and low revenues. From 2009 to 2013, the Forest Service generated 32 cents for every dollar it spent on timber management, while the BLM received 38 cents per dollar spent." See Table 3 on page 14 of Divided Lands: State Vs. Federal Management in the West by Holly Fretwell and Shawn Regan.

(04/02/15) Baldwin County voters "crushed a tax increase proposal at the ballot box." "On the ballot in Baldwin County Tuesday were referendums that would have implemented a new 30-year, 8-mill property tax to pay for a $350 million education building campaign, and the renewal of three separate existing taxes totaling 7-mills. The county reportedly spent nearly $1 million in taxpayer dollars to promote the tax increase and hold the election. The new taxes were each defeated by over 30 points, and only one precinct in the entire county voted to support them. Only one of the renewals succeeded, which will keep an existing 3-mill tax in place." Source:, 4/1/15.

(04/01/15) Do-It-Yourself Information on Portable Sawmills, Log Splitters, Logging Winches, Dry Kilns and all sorts of related equipment and supplies can be found in the 52 page 2015 Independent Sawmill & Woodlot Management Buyer's Guide.

(03/26/15) Forest Management Practices to Enhance Habitat for the Gopher Tortoise is short publication that may be helpful to south Alabama forest owners who want to prevent unnecessary harm to these interesting residents of their land from timber harvesting or other management activities.

(03/16/15) Property Tax Referendums Now Listed on Secretary of State's Website!  PLEASE THANK Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill for adding this very important new information source to the Secretary of State's website. Follow this path to Upcoming Elections: open  in your web browser; then click on the red "Elections" tab on the left; then click on "View Alabama's UPCOMING ELECTIONS."    Here's what we found today:

(03/11/15) "Reforestation at Risk  - U.S. Department of Labor Must Resume Processing H-2B Visas!" reports the Forest Resource Association in an action alert dated 3/9/15.

(03/06/15) There have been 195 bills introduced in the Alabama House and 167 in the Alabama Senate this week. Some are really important, but may we digress from the bigger picture to note that SB123 (Whatley) "requires permit and $50 fee for game feeders." Source: From the Weeds, 3/6/15. Sounds like more regulations and higher taxes, but we could be wrong.

(03/04/15) Shipments of Southern Pine Lumber Up in 2014. The Southern Forest Products Association (SFPA) announced on March 3rd that, for the fifth consecutive year, shipments of Southern Pine lumber recorded an increase from the previous year. Shipments in 2014 totaled 15.79 billion board feet (Bbf), an increase of 5% over the volume shipped in 2013 (15.03 Bbf) and 34% above 2009 shipments (11.79 Bbf). Source: SFPA Press Release, 3/3/15

(03/03/15) Tuscaloosa County Property Tax Vote Today, March 3. The 30-year tax is equivalent to $210 per year on a $100,000 home. Source:, 2/27/15.

(02/27/15) Investing in Timberland is a blog written by realtor and consulting forester Eddie Stone. We think you might find the conversation interesting.

(02/24/15) Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proposes eliminating red tape that strangles private forest owners in his state -- and by eliminating regulations that require a state forester to approve of timber harvests on private land, he also proposes eliminating a few state forester positions due to the reduced workload. To reduce confiscatory property taxes, many Wisconsin forest owners have allowed the state to take over the management of their land. Walker's proposals may be good, but will not eliminate the problems caused by unreasonably high property taxes. According to the LaCrosse Tribune, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has 2,600 employees! 

(02/20/15) Bentley "will propose a $700 million tax hike in his State of the State address March 3rd." Source: YellowHammer, 2/19/15

(02/19/15) Two publications on silviculture that you may find interesting:

(02/18/15) Free Market Environmentalism for the Next Generation, by Terry Anderson and Donald Leal, continues their eye-opening idea that property rights and markets can provide real-world solutions for impending environmental concerns. Listen to Dr. Anderson explain the meaning of "free market environmentalism" during an interview with AFOA last September. 

(02/17/15) Currently at about 1.2 million housing starts, Forisk projects housing starts to peak at 1.6 million starts by 2019.

(02/11/15) "Lack-luster household formation," among other things, still holding down demand for lumber products. Source: Virginia Tech December 2014 Housing Commentary. Archived at: Virginia Tech Housing Reports

(02/10/15) The Strategic Plan to Grow Alabama's Agriculture, Agribusiness, Forestry, and Forest Products Industries 2015 - 2020 was unveiled today at a Montgomery press conference led by Governor Robert Bentley, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Industries, John McMillan, and leaders of Alabama's agriculture and forestry industry.

(01/30/15) Grandchildren: Company leadership might skip a generation.

(01/23/15) Lyme Disease in Alabama. "A little more than three years ago, Carrie Mason was your normal 16-year-old, looking forward to having a driver’s license and enjoying the outdoors with her parents, Art and Dianne Mason." Past outdoor essays from David Rainer.

(01/21/15) "Capital Gains Taxes Should Go Down, Not Up." "The President wants to raise the top tax rate on capital gains and dividends to 28 percent." Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Raising Taxes on Capital Hurts the Middle Class, Economics21, January 20, 2015. See also: What Dynamic Analysis Tells Us About the President's Tax Hike on Capital Gains and Dividends, Tax Foundation, 1/21/15

(01/15/15) Planning to build a boat dock or light vehicular bridge? The Southern Forest Products Association has recently published the Marine Construction Guide: "The 40-page publication provides information for the correct use of southern pine materials for the construction of docks, piers, bulkheads, pedestrian walkways, and light vehicular bridges. New to this edition are 16 pages of sample designs and a glossary of marine construction terminology." Source: Marina Dock Age, Dec 14/Jan 15.

(01/13/15) The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has given an Idaho company permission to provide drone surveillance services for agricultural uses. We are not sure if forest imaging is included in Advanced Aviation Solutions' permit, but if not now, we suspect commercial forestry services will become available in the not too distant future. Original source: Idaho Statesman, 1/7/15. Somewhat related: Unmanned Aircraft System News.

(01/06/15) "Based on the vote [on Amendment 5 on November 4, 2014], 20% of Alabama voters were not in favor of hunting being guaranteed as a basic right. That means one out of five people who voted do not support hunting. The constitutional amendment should stand as a vivid reminder that our rights are defined for us by society. This is why our conduct as hunters should always be responsible and ethical." Source: Hunting at the Ballot Box by Corky Pugh at Editor's question: Do you believe "growers and harvesters of timber" would command greater respect from Alabama voters than "hunters" if the question were put to a vote?

(01/05/15) Forestland security depends on lots of factors, including the sense of responsibility of neighbors to report timber trespass (theft) and other potentially illegal activities on nearby forestland. Unfortunately, that sense of responsibility may be declining, according to a National Center for Policy Analysis Research Report, American's Sense of Civic Duty Declining. The NCPA report was based on an Associated Press-GfK poll. See also:   

(01/02/15) 10 Predictions for Wood Consuming Industries in 2015 from Forest2Market. While basking in the glow of F2M's infallible predictions, you may consider a more reserved approach to belief in predictions after reading Botched environmental predictions for 2015 from FoxNews.