Update: Mill Closes, Field Burn Ban, New Forest Caucus

Update on Current Policy News Affecting Forest Business & Timber Supply
by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manger
Associated Oregon Loggers

Logging Protestors Arrested on State Forest: After just two days of blocking a logging site, 50 police officers promptly arrested all 27 environmental protestors in Douglas County’s Elliott State Forest, near Reedsport (UmpCoos Ridge 2 Timber Sale).  Two days earlier on July 6, loggers found protestors had blocked the road with an overturned pickup, erected crude rope & pole structures, locked themselves to barriers, and perched in tree-sit platforms.  Timber purchaser, Scott Timber Co. (Roseburg FP), allowed law enforcement officers to quickly remove the crooks—intending to discourage further crimes.  The jailed protestors were charged with crimes of interference with agricultural operations, trespassing, and disorderly conduct.  Before they were jailed, an Earth First/ Cascadia Rising Tide press release said they’d “block logging until the sale was canceled.”

Kinzua Mill Acquired by Boise: A subsidiary of Boise Cascade, LLC, Boise Building Solutions announced its June purchase of the Kinzua Resources sawmill, located in Pilot Rock.  Kinzua was a wholly owned subsidiary of Eugene-based Frontier Resources.  First established in 1928, Kinzua acquired the mill in 1994 from L-P.  The recently-upgraded modern sawmill employs 90 and produces over 100 million bdft/year of kiln dried lumber from both large & small-log lines.  The mill has been on a reduced, 32-hour/week schedule for several months, which Boise says will continue.  The acquisition adds to Boise’s nearby five mills in Elgin, Island City, LaGrande and Boardman.

Boise Shuts LaGrande Mill: Boise Cascade, LLC indefinitely shut its La Grande sawmill June 24th, after announcing the closure in late April and stopped taking logs.  Boise said it would mothball the facility after 120 employees are laid off.  Failed federal forest policies forced the mill to go far afield for logs.  Boise had earlier cut production at all its Northeast OR plants.  In an effort to cut costs, Boise had last spring asked the Carpenters Industrial Council union for deferral of wage & benefit increases.  The union members rejected the offer just prior to the closure announcement.  Boise hasn’t said what its long range plans for the mill are.

La Pine Biomass Power Plant Planned: Deschutes County Commissioners in late June approved the siting to construct a biomass power plant in La Pine.  St. Helens-based, Biogreen Sustainable Energy will build and operate the proposed 18-megawatt electricity plant powered by a steam turbine.  The plant will be fueled by woody biomass, or hogg fuel ground-up from mill waste, small timber, slash and construction waste.  Construction reportedly begins in four months, for completion in 18 months.

Paid Access Program on Tree Farm: Weyerhaeuser’s 57,000-acre Molalla Tree Farm in 2008 began a multi-year pilot project to offer “timberlands managed access,” for an annual user fee.  So far, the successful program provides Weyco good public relations and extra revenue.  There’s been a reduction in theft, vandalism, and garbage dumping.  Last year, 240 recreationists paid $250 to recreate there.  The annual permit fee allows family & guest vehicle access May 23-Nov. 29, weekend days, and weekday evenings.  Previously, Weyco banned all vehicles from the tree farm.

Field Burning Banned:
The OR Legislature passed a law to ban most grass field burning in the Willamette Valley, starting next year.  Senate Bill 528 cuts field burning to 20,000 acres in 2009, and bans it in 2010.  An exception is given to hilly terrain near Silverton and for disease epidemics.  Republicans opposed the bill that was carried by the legislative Democrat majority, who claim that human health impacts from smoke outweigh any business cost.  Without the field burning tool, farmer income and field productivity will suffer—just as forestry would suffer if slash/pile burning were banned as a tool.  Future environmental attacks on slash burning just became more likely.

Healthy Forests Caucus Created: US Congressmen Greg Walden (R-OR) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) in July formed a new bipartisan congressional group, the ‘Healthy Forests Caucus’.  The caucus intends to advocate forest policies that promote sustainable solutions for America’s unhealthy federal, state and private forestlands.  Walden and Schrader will co-chair the caucus, which should include Democrats and Republicans to join them in advocating for improved forest policies.  Oregon’s federal forests have been impacted for decades by conflicting and broken forest policies.

Judge Rules Against Forest Service:
US District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled June 30th that the US Forest Service failed to address environmental impacts of changing its national forest planning rule.  During the Bush administration, the Forest Service had improved its own rules to examine wildlife habitat for so-called indicator species.  The judge struck down this rule because she said logging could impact northern spotted owls.  Once again, future timber sales must surmount added legal hurdles because of conflicting court rulings surrounding an obscure provision of the National Forest Management Act that seeks to maintain viable species populations.

Enviro Suit Dismissed over Payments: Federal court Judge R.A Jones in June ruled that the environmental litigants lacked any standing to sue the federal government for allowing two US forestry foundations to keep $350 million—as part of the $1 billion paid by Canada to settle the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA).  The US Endowment for Forestry & Communities (USEFC), and American Forest Foundation (AFF) received $200 million and $150 million, respectively from Canada last year.   Judge Jones concluded that the environmental groups failed to show any environmental degradation or harm from the payments.

Stimulus Funds Fuel Reduction Contracts: Just one example of the hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars earmarked for Oregon, is the House Hope Stewardship Contract.  The $1.4 million pre-commercial thinning service contract will thin and slash fuel hazards on a mere 890 acres—costing federal taxpayers over $1,500/acre for the work and administration.  House Hope is a contract on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, near Takilma.  It’s a tiny fraction of the 80 million acres of national forests nationwide that are hazardous and vulnerable to wildfire.

Congress Moves Forest Service Budget:
The US Forest Service budget for FY 2010passed the House Appropriations Committee on June 18th. The FS timber sale program receives $337 million, an increase of $8 million to cover cost escalation.  The bill includes a $91 million increase in hazardous fuels reduction funding (to $611 million), a doubling for legacy roads (to $100 million), and $357 million for emergency firefighting contingency.  Floor consideration of the Interior Bill is expected prior to the Fourth of July congressional recess.

Crippling Unemployment:
Oregon’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate rose to 12.4% in May, the highest since the figures began in 1976—and one of the nation’s highest rates.  The rate tops the former Nov. 1982 high of 12.1%.  The “increase has moderated” from March to May, following five monthly increases of a full percentage point.  Small businesses and communities are being crushed under eight long months of smothering unemployment.  Rural areas are hobbled from 12-20% unemployment, just as tens of thousands of students enter the summer job market for the first time.

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