Table 1 Taxable forest Owned by timber Proportion owned by ‘timber County acreage companies companies Angelina 334,000 192,000 57% Hardin 498,500* 348,000 70% Jasper 490,400* 359,600 73% Newton 563,200 431,200 77% Sabine 178,500 104,500 59% San Augustine 217,200 143,000 66% Tyler 530,400* 389,400 73% * Figures do not reflect proposed acquisition of 65,000 acres in these counties for the Big Thicket National Preserve. Source: U.S. Forest Service, Forest Statistics for East Texas Pineywoods Counties, 1976. Table 2 Approximate Total acreage in forest the seven Company acreage counties Temple-Eastex Kirby Forest Industries International Paper Co. Southland Paper Mills Champion-U.S. Plywood Owens-Illinois 1,090,000 550,000 442,807 570,000 477,260 171,776 3,301,843 867,000 422,108 106,537 50,562 49,283 103,500 1,598,990 Table 1 shows that Daniels exaggerates the extent of timber company holdings in Newton County, but not by much. The industry-dominated Texas Forestry Association is fond of distributing studies which show that about two-thirds of the state’s more than 10 million acres of commercial forest land is owned by individuals or families. A closer look at the figures, however, reveals that most of these small holdings are in sparsely forested Northeast Texas. In the more thickly wooded and commercially productive counties of Southeast Texas, corporations own virtually all the land. More than 80 percent of Temple-Eastex’s timber domain lies in the seven southeastern counties listed in Table 1. The state’s other timber giants \(Table ing about the small timber farmer, but I have never been contacted by one,” says State Sen. Roy Blake of Nacogdoches. “Frankly, it’s hard to believe [the TFA’s] statistics on timber ownership,”‘ Harry Caudill, in his books Night Comes to the Cumberlands and Watches of the Night, has described the paradox of Appalachiathe phenomenon of a poor people subsisting in a land rich in natural resources. The same paradox applies to East Texas. Considerable wealth has been drawn from the piney woods since railroads opened the region for exploitation at the turn of the century, although the timber barons of that era have given way to today’s diversified corporations. Time Inc.’s 1977 annual report shows pre-tax profits of $52.9 million for Temple-Eastex operations, while Kirby Forest Industries, a subsidiary of Santa Fe Railroad Company, reported beforetaxes profits of $21.9 million. Southland Paper Mills, acquired last year by the multinational St. Regis Paper Company, is the second largest producer of newsprint in the United States thanks to its East Texas holdings. But little of this wealth is reflected in the circumstances of the Texans who live in the timber country. The 12 counties that comprise the heart of the region 2 had a higher percentage of part of the state, according to a 1973 report of the Texas Department of Community Affairs, Poverty in Texas. Over 49 percent of the black families in the region stood below the poverty level of $3,500 per year for a family of four. And more than 54 0 JULY 21, 1978 percent of the elderly were living in poverty in Sabine County, which has a population of about 7,500 people, two doctors and no hospitals. The TDCA study estimated the median per capita income in the 12 counties at $2,229 per year, the lowest income level in the state outside South Texas. Yet according to the timber industry, it is pulling more than its share of the tax load for local services. Another TFAcirculated study shows that the combined county and school district tax on East Texas timberland is $1.43 per acre, the second highest such figure in the South. \(Taxes on timberland elsewhere in Dixie range from 23 cents per acre in Alabama to land to produce more tax revenue, says Hoffman, “we wind up paying our share and a little bit extra.” Beggar thy neighbor The figures in Table 3, however, tell a different story. They are drawn from a 1977 report of the Texas Research League and are based on data compiled in the statewide study of local tax assessment prepared by the Governor’s Office of Education Resources in 1975. The first column shows the fraction of GOER-estimated actual market value at which 28 school districts in East Texas appraised their real property. In the Hudson Independent School District in Angelina County, for example, the official valuation of real property was about 19.9 percent of its estimated market value. The second and third columns show the ratio of official to actual market values for single-family residences and for agricultural landincluding timber. 3 In all but five school districts, homeowners paid a proportionally higher share of the school tax bill than did the timber companies. In 12 school districts, homeowners were taxed on the basis of valuations at least twice as high as those for timberland. Table 4 shows the economic effects on county governments of undervaluing timberland. Because large tracts of timberland rarely change hands, their market value cannot accurately be determined from sale prices. But independent appraisers, including land acquisition agents for the proposed Big Thicket National Preserve, agree that $300 per acre is the bottom end of the market value scale. GOER-estimated market values for timberland in East Texas school districts averaged between $350 and $450 per acre. But even if the counties appraised timberland at only $200 per acre, as shown in Table 4, the additional tax revenue would be substantial. The total tax payments to those counties from Temple-Eastex alone would increase by about $275,000or about 35 cents more per acre.
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