Timber Industry in Western North Carolina: Impacts on the Environment


Prior to the entry of the railroads, Appalachia consisted of mainly virgin old growth forests.  The railroads moved into the area in the mid-1800s and opened up the land to other portions of the United States that had depleted their own forest resources.  The Midwestern and Northeastern portions of the United States were the main culprits.  However, Appalachian hardwoods were prized in both the United States and Europe.  By the beginning of the 20th century logging was one of Appalachia’s most important economic enterprises.  Yet the timber boom brought along many negative environmental changes.  By 1920 as much as ninety percent of the mature forests in the Southern United States had been replaced.  This constituted a complete ecosystem change in North Carolina from old growth hardwood forests to brush, weeds, scrubs, and dead tree tops.  This left the resulting environment susceptible to fire which ran rampant.  Erosion and flooding overtook the area causing many small farms to suffer.  Another unwanted side effect of the timber industry was the run-off of human waste from the timber camps into the nearby streams.  Western North Carolina, one of the areas of the highest biodiversity in the Eastern United States quickly lost many plant and animal species.

Introductory Text: 

Abramson, Rudy and Jean Haskell, ed., The Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Knoxville, TN:
University of Tennessee Press, c2006. Environment by Donald E. Davis pgs. 101-102   ASU App Spec Coll F106.E53

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Highly Relevant:

  • Forests and Forestry – North Carolina
  • Forests and Forestry Appalachian Region Southern
  • Forest Management Appalachian Region Southern
  • Lumber Trade – Appalachian Region
  • Lumber Trade – Appalachian Region Southern History

More General:

  • Forestry and Community Blue Ridge Mountains History
  • Forest Reserves Appalachian Region Southern
  • Lumber Trade – Appalachian Region Southern
Clipping Files Subject Headings - W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Lumbering
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • F127.A65 Y37
  • F217.B6 W67
  • HD 9757.A2 L95
  • QH76.5.A35
  • SD 143
  • SD 144.A15
  • SD 144.N6
  • SD 144.N8
  • SD 356
  • SD 387.S55 B35
  • SD 426.A2
  • SD 426.K3
  • SD 427.E35 M67
  • SD 428.A2
  • SD 428.H6

Bolgiano, Chris. The Appalachian Forest: A Search for Roots and Renewal.
Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1998. ASU App Spec Coll F106.B673

Davis, Donald Edwards. Where There are Mountains: An Environmental History of
the Southern Appalachians. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1999. ASU Spec App Coll GF504. A5 D38

Holmes, J. S. Forest Conditions in Western North Carolina. Raleigh, NC: Edwards and Broughton Printing Company, 1911. ASU Spec App Coll SD 144.N8 H7

United States Department of Agriculture. Message from the President of the United
States, Transmitting a Report of the Secretary of Agriculture in Relation to the Forests, Rivers, and Mountains of the Southern Appalachians. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1902. ASU Spec App Coll SD 143.U5

Yarnell, Susan L. The Southern Appalachians: a History of the Landscape. Asheville,
NC, 1998. ASU Online Access

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Abramson, Rudy and Jean Haskell, ed., The Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Knoxville, TN:
University of Tennessee Press, c2006. Environment Donald E. Davis ASU App Spec Coll F106.E53

Abstracts and Indices: 

America: History and Life

Project Muse

Academic Onefile   

Academic Search Complete



Plant Ecology. Monthly. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishing, 1997-Present. ASU
Online access

Journal of Forestry. Eight times a year. Washington, D.C.: Society of American
Foresters, 1947- Present. ASU Online access

Southeastern Geographer. Semiannual. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1968-Present. ASU Online access

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Beverly Minick, 2 November 2010