LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Here in Louisiana, the forestry industry is a billion-dollar operation.
In fact, forestry is the number one agricultural industry in the state, and like everything else, it was hit hard by the hurricanes.
“Calcasieu had the highest forestry acreage damage of a hundred eighty eighty thousand acres, and the timber value is estimated to be 76.7 million,” said Keith Hawkins, the area forestry agent for the LSU agricultural center.
Hawkins says downed trees not only hurt industries like forestry, agriculture, and tourism.
“It’s a billion-dollar industry in Louisiana, and that doesn’t really speak to the tourism aspect of our natural resources too, so it’s a big deal regarding our trees and natural resources,” he said.
The fallen, drying timber also poses new environmental dangers to the surrounding area.
“I think the biggest concern with a lot of these downed trees is the wildfire hazard that we might have,” he said. “I had seen the U.S. forest service report an arson incident near Alexandria, I think yesterday, of several thousand acres, 2 or 3 thousand acres. So that’s a big concern.” While these impacts may seem distant, Hawkins says the damage can actually lead to an extra hit to your wallet.
“In an urban context, I think people will lose the benefit of shade, and when they lose shade, their air conditioning bills are going to go up,” he added.
While trees provide some defense against hurricane-force winds, Hawkins says if a storm were to come next year, the area is unlikely to see a repeat of the extensive tree damage brought by the 2020 hurricane season.
“I don’t think we’ll lose as many trees, for one thing. There’s not as many, and the trees that are there have shown their resilience,” he said.
Hawkins did say the recovery process from the storms could take at least a decade.