Forestry experts have created a new web application that uses national data from USDA Forest Service to determine available resources in an effort to attract Southern forestry businesses.

The interactive map of 13 Southern states on SouthernTimberSupply.com estimates the amount of timberland, standing timber, trucking time of sites and the growth and removals within different distances. 

Texas A&M Forest Service led the collaborative effort between experts in the Southern Group of State Foresters, National Association of State Foresters and USDA Forest Service to create the Southern Timber Supply Analysis. 

“We’re kind of the leaders in the South with a lot of forestry components, and technology is one of our strong suits,” said Texas A&M Forest Service geospatial analyst Rebekah Zehnder. “We are often relied on by other Southern states to lead the way.”

The application started on a much smaller scale, Zehnder said. Several years ago, an application was developed for East Texas with help from the USDA Forest Service. After a $100 million sawmill was placed in Lufkin last year after the owner used the app, Zehnder said other states began to show interest. 

So the application was expanded to include the 13 states in the Southern Group of State Foresters and officially launched last week.

According to a press release, the South produces more than half of the nation’s timber with its more than 250 million forested acres. The majority of the land is privately owned within the 13 states included in the application, the release said.

Additionally, forestry in Texas accounts for $32.5 billion of economic activity, according to the release. That accounts for 144,500 jobs and a labor income of $8.4 billion.

While the information in the application can be useful for many reasons, Zehnder said it is best for people interested in starting a mill in a new location. Since the application shows how much timber is in the area as well as how much is growing and being removed, it can prevent mills from being built in an area that is not sustainable.

“I really like being able to take data from a database that is monstrous and complicated and messy and turning it into something that anybody can use,” Zehnder said. 

The data available in the application is powerful, Zehnder said, and she looks forward to what the application can do for people in the future. 

“There is great potential for economic development to come out of the information that we’re providing through this application,” Zehnder said.

For more information on the new application, and others that the Forest Service has developed, go to TexasForestInfo.com.

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