The controversy over chip mills in North Carolina is part of a larger public discussion of forest policy throughout the southern Appalachians, Ozarks, and Ouachitas. Chip mills have become a symbol of forest resource exploitation in the southern Appalachians, and many studies and commissions have been established for analysis of the conflict. In this paper I describe the tensions that have arisen between new public views of appropriate property use and more traditional views of natural resource use. Based on the results of a social impact assessment conducted in the summer of 1999 as part of a broader study on the economic and ecological impacts of wood chip processing facilities in North Carolina, I first review the context of chip mills in the Southeast and North Carolina, focusing on the polarization of opinions that has developed since the early 1990s. I then present ten common perceptions of chip mills used in the arguments for and against them. These reflect the tendency to personify chip mills as agents. Following a discussion of the allocation of social costs to corporate entities rather than to forest landowners, I suggest that change in attitudes, policies, and regulations regarding chip mills will be influenced not only by increasing public interests in private property, but also by worldwide demand for wood products.

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