Commercial logging has escalated dramatically in the South in recent years, and an unlikely set of Southerners, including local loggers and tourism officials, are speaking up to say that tree-cutting is out of control in the region. After the feds drastically reduced logging in the Northwest in the early 1990s, big timber companies focused their efforts on the South, where 85 percent of timberland is privately owned and logging is largely unregulated. Much of the Southern wood is being fed to chip mills, relatively low-cost plants that grind lumber into wood chips for pulp and paper mills. The number of chip mills in operation in the U.S. has tripled since 1985, according to Timber Processing, a trade publication.