The logging industry in North Carolina – a significant contributor to the state’s economy – is under fire from The Center for Sustainable Economy and Dogwood Alliance, which are calling the industry a “climate catastrophe.” In a new report, the groups find that industrial logging is the state’s third most carbon intensive sector, just after electricity and transportation – and, the report claims, it goes almost completely unaccounted for.
The US South is “ground zero” for destructive industrial logging, and North Carolina is the largest wood pellet exporter in the country, according to the report.
The report found that because of short rotation timber plantations for paper, pellets, and low-quality timber, 7.5% of North Carolina (2.6 million acres) is a carbon sequestration dead zone. When forests are clearcut, instead of removing CO2, they release it for up to 13 years and even when left standing, plantations store 50% less carbon than native forests.
To improve the situation, the authors suggest “climate smart forestry practices” that find alternatives to clearcutting and instead focus on protection, restoration and lighter impact logging. This research replicates findings from a report on the Oregon forest products industry by the Center for Sustainable Economy that found that the logging industry is the most carbon intensive sector in that state.
North Carolina has about 18.14 million acres of timberland, primarily dominated by hardwoods in terms of number of species, acres of timberland, and live standing tree inventory, according to an NC State Extension article published earlier this year. Lumber consumption in the state has primarily been centered in the sectors of residential and commercial construction.
In 2016, sawmills and veneer producing mills had a total economic contribution of about $4.4 billion to the North Carolina economy, the article says.