Committee helps preserve forestry - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Committee helps preserve forestry

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June 15, 2005

Valdosta - These trees pump billions of dollars into Georgia's economy each year. "We cannot afford to lose forestry," said Senator Ross Tolleson.

But slowly, we are. "We've not shrunk from about a 30 billion dollar industry to a 20 billion dollar industry," said Tolleson.

That's why these state senators and representatives have formed the Future of Forestry Study Committee. Wednesday, they met in Valdosta to discuss ways of saving this economic engine. "We're trying to stay ahead of the curve and look at problems that are occurring and ways to expand our industry back instead of letting it shrink," said Tolleson.

And that starts with figuring out why the industry is on the downfall. "You're seeing companies like Warehauser sell their land because mathematically, its not a good return on their investment," said Tolleson.

A lot of forests are also being broken up and sold to make room for new subdivisions. So what needs to be done to bring this dying industry back to life? Some suggest tax incentives for land owners. "That includes everything from relief with property tax to investment tax credits, encouraging them to expand their business here in the state," said Dr. Richard Porterfield.

The committee also recommends using private land for fee based recreation. "Developing hiking trails, camping sites, you can do ATV locations, people will pay to recreate on forest land and right now we're using public land but they're getting overcrowded," said Porterfield.

Preserving this land isn't just important for the economy, its also vital to our lifestyle. "It helps us have clean air, clean water, and we've got a lot of water issues in the state of Georgia so we don't want to lose our forests when they're being such a great benefit to us," said Tolleson.

A benefit that this group is committed to saving.

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