Local forest landowners who own stands of northern hardwoods have, in the past, had no difficulty in selling quality saw timber-sized trees. However, to properly manage hardwood stands, a landowner shouldn’t just harvest the big, quality trees (i.e. the valuable trees) but also harvest some of the smaller and low-quality trees. Many hardwood forests in private ownership have a large proportion of these lower quality trees. These lower quality trees usually do not produce saw timber but are considered hardwood pulpwood. Many loggers find large quantities of hardwood pulpwood to be difficult to market and barely profitable. This has put landowners in the situation where they have only been able to sell the quality trees and accept little or no improvement in the quality of the remaining forest. The new Arauco mill being built in Grayling will greatly improve the market for hardwood pulpwood and help landowners and loggers manage northern hardwood forests better.
The second, and maybe greater, benefit will be in the softwood market. Softwoods include pines, fir, and spruces. The Cadillac area is full of softwood plantations. Pine trees in particular are, and were, planted in high densities with the assumption that when the trees are about 25 years old, that the plantation would be thinned. This thinning usually only produces pulpwood. Presently the pine pulpwood market is struggling. The greatest benefit of the new mill will be in the improved market for less desirable softwoods such as Scotch pine, jack pine, and Colorado blue spruce. Particularly for owners of abandoned Christmas tree plantations, the Arauco mill may offer a market for these less desirable trees that are large enough to produce pulpwood sticks.
The abundance of this kind of wood coupled with the lack of markets for this wood was a large part of what made the Arauco Corporation choose to build its mill in this part of Michigan. According to Keen, Michigan is presently growing more wood than it is harvesting. He stated that approximately ten years ago mills in Muskegon, Gaylord, Otsego, and Soo, Canada closed because of the poor economy. These mills combined consumed more wood than the new Graying mill will utilize.
It has been several months since Michigan news outlets announced the decision of Arauco, Inc. to build a particle board plant in Grayling. The new plant is expected to be the largest “continuous” single-line particleboard press in North America. It is scheduled to be in full operation in late 2018. Currently, not only is the physical plant being built, but the organization to feed this huge mill is also being put together. Soon the community of loggers and forest land owners will notice the impact of this addition to the wood products market. These impacts will be welcome news for residents of the greater Cadillac area.
Randy Keen is the Wood Procurement Manager for Arauco. According to Keen, the Grayling mill will utilize 1.2 million tons of wood material per year. Keen states that the Arauco mill will be set up to use wood residues such as chips and sawdust from regional sawmills that up to now is wasted and is often considered a nuisance. About a third of the mill’s consumption will come from recycling this sawmill by-product. The rest will come in the form of pulpwood which will likely total over 300 thousand cords per year. Two-thirds of the mill’s consumption will be softwoods and one-third will be dense hardwoods. They will not be purchasing Aspen or basswood pulpwood.
According to Keen, the Arauco mill will begin purchasing wood in the third quarter of 2018, about a year from now. They will be primarily procuring wood within a 70-mile distance from Grayling. Mesick is about a 70-mile haul to the Arauco mill. The new mill will operate for about 6 months before it will reach full capacity.
Forests are Michigan’s renewable resource. Two-thirds of the forest land in the Lower Peninsula is in private ownership. Having good markets for forest products is an essential part of properly managing one’s forestland. Together with other mills in the area, small and large, there will now be a complete package of options available to help properly manage forests.
Larry Czelusta is the Conservation District Forester serving Wexford and Missaukee Counties. For more information on managing your oak trees, you can call him at 231-775-7681, ext. 3, stop by the office located at 7192 E. 34 Road in Cadillac, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org