Western North Carolina has 3.2 million acres of timberland. The mountain region, an area of rugged terrain and limited access, has relatively few large cities compared to the rest of the state. Upland hardwoods cover the majority of the forested landscape and white pine is the most common softwood type. Ownership of the region's timber is dominated by the private sector.
Roundwood refers to logs, bolts, or other round sections cut from trees for industrial manufacture or consumer use. Saw Logs are at least 8 feet in length and can be processed into a variety of sawn products such as lumber, cants, pallets, railroad ties, and timbers. Veneer Logs are roundwood products that are either rotary cut, sliced, stamped, or sawn into a variety of veneer products such as plywood, finished panels, veneer sheets, or sheathing.
Pulpwood is wood that is reduced to individual fibers by chemical or mechanical means. The fibers are used to make a broad generic group of pulp products that includes paper products, as well as fiberboard, insulating board, and paperboard.
Fuelwood is roundwood harvested for residential use. Fuelwood consumption is falling because it is labor intensive and considered less safe than alternative energy sources. Domestic fuel wood does, however, account for a fairly significant portion of hardwood product output (22 percent) in the region.
Other industrial wood products include composite panels which are manufactured into chips, wafers, strands, flakes, shavings, or sawdust and then reconstituted into a variety of panel and engineered lumber products.
Posts, poles, and pilings are milled, or cut and peeled into standard sizes (lengths and circumferences) to be put in the ground to provide vertical and lateral support in buildings, foundations, utility lines, and fences. This category may also include nonindustrial un-milled products.
Saw logs dominate the market in both softwood and hardwood product distribution in the region. From 1995 to 2007, of the total average distribution of softwood products, 13.2 million cubic feet (71 percent) was saw logs. From 1995 to 2007, of the total average distribution of hardwood products, 26.1 million cubic feet (50 percent) was saw logs. Saw logs, the most valuable roundwood product, are cut from the largest and most mature trees. The volume of sawtimber is increasing in the region as the forest reaches maturity.
From 1995 to 2007, of the total average distribution of softwood products, 4.2 million cubic feet (22 percent) was pulpwood. From 1995 to 2007, of the total average distribution of hardwood products, 11.4 million cubic feet (22 percent) was pulpwood.
Contribution of Timberland to the Economy
Roundwood Product Output
Roundwood is cut from softwood and hardwood trees. Softwoods, such as pine, spruce and fir, are evergreen trees with needle or scale-like leaves. Hardwoods, such as oak, maple, poplar, and hickory, have broad leaves with a large surface area which are shed annually. Hardwood product removal represents 74 percent of annual roundwood output in the region while softwood output comprises the remaining 26 percent. In Western North Carolina, during the period, 1995 – 2007, the total average roundwood output was 70.6 million cubic feet per year.
Annual variation in roundwood production closely mirrors national economic trends. From 1995 to 1999, roundwood output declined by 8 percent. The following three years (2000-2003), however, roundwood output increased by 8 percent. From 2005 to 2007, outputs declined by 19.3% due to changing economic conditions, a trend which continues into the present. In addition, from 2005 to 2007, four sawtimber mills closed; one each in Yancey and Watauga counties, and 2 in Alleghany County. In 2007, thirty-seven manufacturing mills were operating in the region.