Thursday, August 20, 2009
Tree farmers group submits permit plan
By SUE WATSON
The leaders of the Marshall County Forestry Association have proffered some rules they believe will help the timber industry get trees out of the field and at the same time preserve county roads.
Buck Hobbs, George Murphree and Art Waymire, local tree farmers, went over a proposed permit agreement to be used for hauling timber out of the fields in Marshall County. Timber is the largest agricultural product in the county with an estimated $400 million in product standing, they said.
The plan would be followed by timber buyers and loggers and still protect roads, Hobbs said.
A high priority of the plan involves posting a permit at the job site and visible from the county road, he said, so the public knows loggers have a set route to market and that they do what is necessary to protect county roads.
County administrator Larry Hall said the plan still will not prevent loggers from tearing up roads.
“All it does is route it,” he said.
Hobbs reminded supervisors that state laws protect a person’s right to harvest his crop.
“There is a timber harvest permit in state law, too,” Hall said.
Supervisor Willie Flemon said taxpayers utlimately are the ones who pay for the road they drive home on and that loggers could consider weather conditions when bringing heavy loads out of the field.
The proposed permit process gives supervisors the right to stop hauling based on weather conditions,Waymire said.
Hobbs said if logging work had been suspended for several days on Scales Tower Road last year for a few days of bad weather, the county would not have seen damages to the road that haulers made.
“Loggers are like children and the county should tell them not to haul if it’s too cold,” Hobbs said.
District 5 supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett said a common sense approach is best to the problem of moving timber and equipment in and out of the field.
“It’s hard for loggers not to work when they have payments in equipment every week or few weeks,” he said. “It all boils down to this - we cannot stop a logger from logging. It’s a Mississippi product.
“We have an option of saying, ‘if you tear roads up, we are going to sue you.’ All we can do now is try to work together. We ask loggers to stay off the shoulders and not to pull in and out at the same spot every time and tear up the road. There’s no doubt in my mind there’s good loggers and bad loggers.”
The permit rules recommend that loggers complete all the educational requirements of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and to follow best management practices.
Board attorney Kent Smith said individuals with small plots should be allowed to harvest their own crop.
Bennett agreed the permit should not be too restrictive, especially for those who own small numbers of acres.
Hobbs said supervisors could do what they want with regard to making exceptions to the permitting process. He said the leadership will talk to the forestry association membership to make sure all industry people know about the new rules when they are completed.
Smith said large buyers have begun to require that tree farmers get certified and file their certifications with the company before they will buy timber.
“You are talking about they want to buy from certified tree farms,” said Hobbs. “It is a part of their environmental concern that they can put a sign out saying they are environmentally friendly. In the future, certified tree farming will be a requirement.”
“Eventually, more of the companies will not buy without a certified logger,” said Waymire. “They do not want to pollute streams.”
Hall said most loggers are not certified.
“And some tree farmers lay back and put their logging crew out front,” he said.
Bennett said he believes the big companies do business on the basis of the best buy.
“The taxpayer is worried about the road in front of his house,” he said. “You tear up their road and they don”t like it.”
Supervisor Keith Taylor agreed.
“People wait 20 to 30 years to get their roads paved and it can be demolished in two weeks,” he said. “It upsets them.”
Hobbs said the application for a permit to haul timber would not solve all problems that come up, but agreeing on the process will help.
“Whether it’s timber, cars or groceries, the bottom line is you want to make enough money to take care of your family,” said Hobbs.
Waymire said if the logger is told to cease and desist or the county will stop his operations, he will listen.
The board of supervisors will add additional recommendations of its own and the permit rules will then become law after agreement between the forestry association leadership and the board.
The board voted to take the recommendations under advisement.
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