The Florida timber industry could be affected by Hurricane Michael, both now and years down the road.
Florida has more than 17 million acres of forests, and the vast majority of those timberlands are working forests. Florida also has more than 400 logging companies across the state that depend heavily on a good timber harvest.
Timber is one of the largest industries in the state of Florida. However, after Hurricane Michael many timber and logging companies are worried how the timber is affected today and how it will be affected 10 years from now.
“My concern is what the availability of timber will be the next 10 years,” said Dwayne Taylor with D&S Logging and Chiploa Timbers Harvesting Inc., in Chipley.
Taylor is a seasoned veteran with the timber industry. Taylor and his wife, Sherry, founded D&S Logging in 1995 until a partnership began in 2007 that formed Chipola Timber Harvesting Inc.
“I know at this time it is too early to tell how the industry will be affected,” Taylor said. “But, I do believe it will be affected at some point and time, and this could cause some sort of loss in the industry.”
The Florida Forest Service Information Officer Annalisa Winter stated additional forestry teams have arrived following Hurricane Michael to determine what damage has occurred to the timber crop following the storm.
“This is going to take some time,” Winter said. “At this time, we can’t provide accurate information on what timber will be harvestable or what timber amounts could be a complete loss.”
Young pines that are leaning following the storm, could lost, Winter said.
Several programs are available to assist with replanting. However, a complete assessment must be completed to determine the damage. Once the damage has been determined a forestry agent will instruct timber owners on programs available, Winter said.
According to the Florida Forestry Association in 2016, 66 percent of Florida’s forestlands are privately owned by industry, corporations, families, or individuals, while 17 percent is stated-owned, 16 percent is federal, and 3 percent is owned by county and municipal government.
In 2016, the forest industry sectors directly employed 36,055 employees full-time and part-time positions.
Total 2016 forestry acres are as follows for the following counties that could be affected by Hurricane Michael: Bay County – 287,219 acres; Gulf County – 264,929; Jackson County – 274,566 acres; Holmes County – 178,865; and Washington County, 217,606 acres.