The Malheur Lumber Company in John Day has been granted a reprieve from the closure that parent company Ochoco Lumber announced last month. The promise of private landowners to supply the mill with enough timber supply for a month or two to keep it open is but a temporary solution.
I have participated for three years on the state’s Federal Forest Advisory Committee’s Implementation Working Group, collaborating to reach consensus on ways to restore eastside forests. Recently, $2.5 million in federal funds was extended to support the Blue Mountain Forest Partners collaborative for this purpose. But the federal help may be too little, too late.
Without that mill, the small-diameter logs from forest restoration efforts will have to be trucked to Lakeview or Gilchrist – 210 miles or 190 miles, respectively. Probably not feasible with today’s fuel prices.
John Day is a community surrounded by national forests. That struggling sawmill has been a steady supplier of lumber and family-wage jobs for decades.
Without sawmills located close to areas needing thinning, there’s no economic engine to make restoration economically viable. It is the lumber that will help pay for this work. Ironically, the mill closed because there is not enough timber to keep the mill open, even though it is located within eyesight of a sea of forests needing attention.
We can’t afford to lose any more mills in eastern Oregon.
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