Economic and ecological impacts of wood chip production in North Carolina: An integrated assessment and subsequent applications

Published

Journal Article

The North Carolina Wood Chip Mill Study represents an integrated assessment of the economic and ecological impacts associated with production of wood chips at satellite chip mills in the state of North Carolina (NC), USA. Mandated by the Governor of NC, the study was attended by a high degree of public scrutiny. We report principal findings, and describe the processes by which we dealt with uncertainty resulting from limited data availability, methods used to foster public involvement and efforts to reconcile public concerns over forest harvests with our narrower mandate to examine chip mills. We considered the hypotheses that chip mills fostered widespread industrial clearcutting, increased utilization of previously noncommercial timber (especially small hardwoods), depleted future growing stocks of sawtimber, and might create adverse ecological consequences or impair aesthetics important to recreational forest users. NC wood-based industries are a major component of the state's economy, but lagged the state in economic growth from 1977 to 1996. Over the same period, the nature-based tourism sector grew rapidly. Forest land losses in North Carolina from 1982 to 1997 totaled more than one million acres. We used an econometric model to adjust timber land base and project timber supply dynamics to 2020. The simulation indicated that softwood removals exceeded growth from 1990 onward. Hardwood removals exceed growth by 2005, causing inventory levels to decline slightly by the end of the projection period. Wood chip mills processed approximately 27% of the state's chipwood harvest and 12% of the state's total timber harvest. They were statistically correlated with increased timber harvests in the state, especially in the Piedmont and the Mountains. Chip mills have effective storm water management plans and do not show visible signs of adversely affecting water quality. Higher levels of timber harvest alter forest structures in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, generally creating less habitat for bird, amphibian and reptile species of conservation concern. Fewer species are adversely affected in the Mountains. Public opinion about chip mills is polarized, and controversy exists principally in the western portion of the state. Overall, public acceptance of study findings was favorable, and selected elements of the research findings have been used to support a variety of advocacy positions. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Schaberg, RH; Aruna, PB; Cubbage, FW; Hess, GR; Abt, RC; Richter, DD; Warren, ST; Gregory, JD; Snider, AG; Sherling, S; Flournoy, W

Published Date

  • February 1, 2005

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 7 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 157 - 174

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1389-9341

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/S1389-9341(03)00029-7

Citation Source

  • Scopus