Timber Tops in Taylor County

One local community is proud to say they're "number one." For years, Taylor County has been dubbed the "forest capital," and now they have the numbers to back it up.

The Florida Forest Association has ranked Taylor County number one in the forest industry.

John Fish, district manager for the Florida Division of Forestry, says, "The total land area of Taylor County is around 167,000 acres, and 85 percent of that is forest. Obviously trees and forestry is a very important part of this county."

In 2003 the total output, or sales impacts of the forest products industry in Florida, were estimated at more than $16.5 billion, almost two billion of it out of Taylor County. Miami-Dade is second with $1.89 billion, and $1.7 billion from Duval County.

Seventy-seven hundred jobs in Taylor County are created by the industry, many of those jobs coming from Buckeye Paper Mill.

Howard Drew, VP of Wood Cellulose Manufacturing for Buckeye, says, "We directly and indirectly affect over 1,000 jobs in the local economy here. A large number of the products we produce here are shipped all over the world."

Forestry also contributes to the environment, recreation like hunting, which is big in Taylor County, and the Forest Festival.

Mark Southerland, chairman of the Taylor County Chamber of Commerce, says, "It's a big event. You got arts and crafts, you got a contest of log cutting and log rolling and lumberjacks, so it's a big event for us in the community."

Residents say their forests are more than about trees; it's about life.