Memphis-based International Paper Co.’s plan to shut its Courtland, Ala., paper mill next year may impact landowners and businesses across Northeast Mississippi.
Logging jobs may be lost or moved, and timber owners in some counties may find it difficult to market pulpwood at all.
Plans for the closure were announced on Sept. 11, and the process was expected to be completed sometime in the first three months of 2014. Two of the mill’s four processors were shut down in November.
The Courtland plant produces mostly uncoated papers used in business forms, envelopes, labels, copiers, printers along with coated magazine papers.
That segment of the paper market began declining in 1999 as online publications and electronic billing and filing replace many paper purposes.
James Henderson, associate extension professor at Mississippi State University specializing in forestry management, said the impact on pulpwood markets in this area will be substantial.
“I’ve heard that pulpwood prices are already down because of it,” he said.
Registered Forester Jaysen Hogue is owner of New Albany-based MercyTree Forestry Services, which recently added small-scale logging to its offering of consulting services.
Hogue said the loss of a pulpwood market would be a financial setback for timber owners but that an even bigger financial risk is neglecting to thin trees in a timely manner.
“That hurts your production of sawtimber in the future,” he said. “If you can’t sell the thinnings, about all you can do is to cut them and let them rot away so your remaining trees can grow on up to sawtimber-quality and size.”