Wis. markets facing headwinds, including mill closures, storm impact, panel says

Decline of pulpwood markets is having broad effects

MADISON, Wis. -- The serious long term effects of the decline of pulpwood markets in Wisconsin from the Verso mill closing received strong emphasis in a February panel of industry leaders from varied wood markets in a February panel organized by the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association.

Troy Brown of Kretz Lumber noted the decreased demand for hardwood pulp as negatively impacting sawlog harvesting. Brown said the markets for pulpwood and sawlogs “are married” because the economic viability of a harvest rely on sales of both types of wood. The absence of a pulpwood market has “a negative effect on sawlog yield,” Brown said.

Kretz, of Antigo, Wisconsin, sells a variety of hardwood lumber products from maple, oak, cherry and basswood into domestic and international markets. Brown said, “We are fortunate to have a pulpwood industry (in Wisconsin),” noting the lack of that market in New York state has had a negative impact on the whole forestry products industry.

That explanation was echoed by Dennis Schoeneck, owner of Enterprise Forest Products, a logging operation from Enterprise, Wisconsin. Schoeneck is heading up the Timber Producers Cooperative, formed by logging and trucking companies intent on working to buy the shuttered Verso mill in Wisconsin Rapids.

Schoeneck emphasized the long term vision that often comes with the cooperative form of ownership. TPC has provided a letter of intent to Verso to establish its interest in pursuing ownership. It is in the process of forming a “multi-stakeholder cooperative” that would have broader representation, including equipment dealers, landowners, foresters and members of the Wisconsin Rapids community.

Another issue “hanging over” the pulpwood market has been the huge amount of salvage wood left on the land after the massive July, 2019 storms. “Just last week I was cutting standing timber for the first time since the storms”, Schoeneck said.

Forester Ken Price of Valley View Forestry in Stevens Point emphasized that salvage logging takes longer because of the safety concerns and the difficulty of moving equipment around amidst a large number of downed trees. “It’s dangerous and hard on equipment,” Price said.

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