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Recycling’s Ability to Offset Logging Cuts Slighted, Report Says

December 4, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Government projections of a U.S. timber supply shortage have vastly underestimated growth in paper recycling, which will help offset logging cutbacks in the Northwest, Forest Service researchers said today.

Reducing logging to save the endangered northern spotted owl will have short-term effects on the market - dropping supply, raising prices and costing jobs, the researchers said.

But acceleration of wastepaper recycling should cancel out a projected shortage of softwood sawtimber in the South as early as the turn of the century and reverse the trend in the Northwest by 2010, they said.

″In contrast to the rising pulpwood prices that had been projected, the future now promises timber growth that more nearly matches the growing demand for pulpwood,″ said Peter Ince, a research forester, and Joanne Alig, an economist.

″As pulpwood prices are stabilized over the long term and the North American industry relies more heavily on recycled fiber, the combined effect will be a substantial increase in fiber supply,″ they wrote.

The researchers from the Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis., were presenting their paper today at the Agriculture Department’s annual outlook conference here.

The report said logging cutbacks will encourage timber companies to move from the Northwest to the South, increasing demand for softwood sawtimber there.

But ″accelerated wastepaper recycling will largely offset the growth in pulpwood consumption... that would otherwise have occurred in the South,″ Ince and Alig wrote.

Jim Sanders, a spokesman for Forest Service headquarters, said Tuesday that earlier projections did not foresee the dramatic impact recycling now is expected to have on the market.

Ince and Alig expect nearly a doubling over the next 50 years of the amount of recycled paper used in relation to all paper and cardboard production - from 26.4 percent in 1989, to 31 percent by 2000 and 45 percent by 2040.

The researchers noted that each of the 50 states has enacted some form of recycling legislation in recent years.

Jeffrey Olson, an economist for The Wilderness Society, said it marked the first time the Forest Service has acknowledged that recycling can expand the resource base and maintain job levels.

But an industry official said the agency is mistakenly ″pinning their hopes on accelerated paper recycling, believing that will result in significant additional timber inventories.

″Contrary to today’s announcement by the U.S. Forest Service, the nation could be facing a substantial timber shortage and not realize it,″ said Con Schallau, economist for the American Forest Resource Alliance.

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