Andy Kerr vs. Forest Jobs: A Second Opinion

Here are opposing viewpoints by Andy Kerr — mentioned in an earlier comment by Larry — and by Jim Geisinger, long-time head of Associated Oregon Loggers. I have known of both men for nearly 25 years and have sat through presentations and had conversations with each. I will admit to a strong bias here, based partly on the positions of each person, but mostly what I perceive to be their character. Jim I have always found to be truthful, straightforward, honest, and humble; my experiences with Kerr have been mostly the opposite and one of the key reasons I have had little to do with him (except read some of his stuff occasionally or read the captions under his picture in the newspaper) for the past two decades. Also, I really dislike very much that he presents himself as a “conservationist” when he is far more an “obstructionist” than anything else. Regular readers here have heard my Animal Farm thoughts on the preservationists who hi-jacked the conservation label several years ago (Andy being a leader in that department, too), but Kerr isn’t even a preservationist — more like an opportunist with his eye out for photographers and loose change. Based on personal experience, I don’t think he is a very honest or ethical person either, and will leave it at that. With that being said (I know several of you here are not big fans of logging either), please try and keep an open mind when considering these two opinions. BZ

Despite timber supplies, future is bright for Oregon loggers

 Oct. 10, 2013   |
Written by Jim Geisinger, Associated Oregon Loggers

Andy Kerr’s memory of the events leading to the downsizing of Oregon’s forest products industry and his vision for its future could benefit from a strong dose of truth and reality.

First, the principal cause of the industry’s downsizing over the past two decades is the reduction of timber coming from our federal forests, plain and simple. Timber harvest levels in Oregon have been reduced by half as a result of the efforts of Mr. Kerr and his colleagues in the environmental movement. Nearly all of the reduction has occurred from federal forest lands. The industry is half the size it once was. The math is pretty simple.

What would happen to our high tech industry if we reduced its supply of silicon by half? What would happen to Nike if its supply of rubber was cut in half? What would happen to agriculture if we took away half of its farmland? Take away an industry’s basic raw material needs, and it won’t exist anymore.

Second, Mr. Kerr believes the sole motivation for our industry existing is that nasty goal of making a profit. Well, last I checked, most American homes are made of wood. In fact, almost every human being on the face of the earth uses a wood product every day in some shape or form. People use and demand the products the industry makes. But back to Mr. Kerr’s point, the reason most businesses exist is to make a profit. I don’t think I have met a business person whose goal is to lose money. Businesses that make money pay taxes to fund our government. Those that lose money don’t pay taxes. It is a novel system.

Third, Mr. Kerr is just flat out wrong in his assumptions about the future of the logging industry. While tremendous advances have been made in logging technology and the use of mechanized systems to harvest timber in the safety of an enclose cab, this is technology that is applicable to gentle slopes. The fact is that the mountainous terrain, so prevalent in our state, will always require the use of yarders and the crew necessary to run them. Including workers setting chokers and chasing logs in the brush. The demand for loggers with yarder capacity is higher today than ever.

Associated Oregon Loggers, Inc. represents 1,000 logging companies and businesses associated with the industry (yup, there are that many left). They are exclusively small family-owned businesses typically managed by the second, third or fourth generation of family owners. They are largely located in rural communities. They are certainly part of our state’s history, but they are also an important part of its future.

Mr. Kerr’s credentials as an environmental activist are beyond reproach. But his self-anointed credibility as an expert on the complexities of the forest products industry, its history and its future is not. The net result of his and his follower’s activities over the past two decades has been the demise of half the forest products industry due to our federal forests being placed off-limits to forest management; the destruction of rural communities across the state; the insolvency of many counties; and the increase in catastrophic wildfire on federal forests. Perhaps it is time to give credit where credit is due.

Jim Geisinger is Executive Vice President of Associated Oregon Loggers, a statewide trade association representing some 1,000 member companies engaged in the harvest and sustainable forest management of Oregon’s 30 million acres of forestland. He can be reached at geisinger@oregonloggers.org

Andy Kerr: Antiquated politics for an innovating Oregon timber industry

Oct. 7, 2013

Written by Andy Kerr

Not by those pesky conservationists (I was one) who back in the day said clear-cutting two square miles per week of Oregon’s ancient forests had to stop, but by some politicians seeking a political solution for the Oregon timber industry of the past rather than that of today, let alone the timber industry of the future.

Let’s examine evidence from 1995 (the first full year of the Northwest Forest Plan, which ended the timber wars as we had known them) and 2012 (the last year for which comparable data is available):

• Oregon softwood lumber mills — 94 in 1995, 54 in 2012, a decline of 43%.

• Oregon wood products jobs — 46,200 in 1995, 25,500 in 2012, a decline of 45%.

• Total Oregon jobs — 1,428,200 in 1995, 1,638,300 in 2012, an increase of 15%.

• Oregon logging and milling jobs — 3.23% of all Oregon jobs in 1995, 1.56% of all Oregon jobs in 2012, a decrease of 52%.

• Logging and milling jobs per million board feet of logs cut — 2.04 logging and 7.91 milling jobs in 1995, 1.52 logging and 3.52 milling jobs in 2012, declines of 26% and55% respectively.

• Milling capacity of Oregon softwood sawmills — 5,842 million board feet of lumber in 1995, 7,237 million board feet of lumber in 2012, an increase of 24% (with 43% fewer mills).

Counting facilities and jobs, the Oregon timber industry is about half as big today as it was when the Northwest Forest Plan went into effect. Counting milling capacity (appetite for logs), the Oregon timber industry is about a quarter larger today than in 1995.

Automation will continue to take its toll on both the number of mills and jobs. To the timber industry, jobs are just a cost of doing business; the reason it does business is profit.

What workers there are in the more-automated Oregon lumber mills of the future will more likely be wearing a technician’s white coat than a blue-collared shirt. In the woods, automation means more workers operating joysticks inside air-conditioned cabs than setting chokers.

More of the remaining 54 mills will close. Nine remaining Oregon lumber mills have a business model that requires the milling of large logs from large trees that come from old forests. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Peter DeFazio and Greg Walden all oppose logging such forests and agree the social license no longer exists to log older forests on federal public forestlands.

The evidence is clear: The Oregon timber industry of the future will have an increasing appetite for logs but provide fewer jobs to help people put food on their tables. In both absolute and relative terms, the Oregon timber industry is declining as compared to the rest of the Oregon economy.

Yet many Oregon politicians want to dramatically increase clear-cut logging on federal public forestlands. It doesn’t make sense to throw more tax monies and public assets at an industry in inevitable transition.

Today it takes five acres (about five football fields) of clear-cuts per year to produce one timber job. As industry automation (pronounced “innovation”) continues, it will take even more clear-cutting to produce each of a smaller number of wood products jobs.

What about those current and future Oregon jobs that depend on clean water, abundant wildlife, and scenic beauty?

Andy Kerr (www.andykerr.net) consults for conservation organizations across the West that seek to protect wildlands, wild waters and wildlife. He received more than his allotted 15 minutes of fame (or infamy) during the Oregon Timber War I. He splits his time between Ashland, Ore., and Washington, D.C.

55 Comments

  1. Let’s see, five acres per year per job, 15,000 feet per acre is 75,000 feet. Man, that must be goooood wood. If I could make a year’s wages whackin and stackin five acres a year, I’d be a logger!

    Don’t tell Andy.

    • He did not address andy;s key point about automation,

      what andy is saying is that there are 5 jobs now per million bf harvested and milled, (1.5 logging and 3.5 mills). At 40,000 bf an acre which sounds reasonable for western oregon, that is 5 acres a job, or 200,000 bf/job. There used to be 10 jobs per million bf in 95.

      And it appears that his total job and employment numbers for 95 are after the harvest declines had taken place. The owl suit hit the fan in 91/92 right so by 95 the harvest had already fallen a lot.

      As he says…

      “Counting facilities and jobs, the Oregon timber industry is about half as big today as it was when the Northwest Forest Plan went into effect. ”

      The gist of andy’s argument is the sharp declines in employment due to industry changes since 95, and that there are more declines to come with older mills closing due to over capacity.
      As he said, the defazio BLM plan would leave almost all larger older trees out of the cut, one of the things I like about it. Those old log mills will close.

      BTW, andy has been strongly in favor of thinning of various kinds, he has changed over the years, I respect him much for that compared to the old days when he said the worst fire is better than the best logging. .

      I was not around for the owl wars, i was in africa and in grad school back east so i missed andy’s history.

      But i do not see Geisinger even trying to counter with any specifics what andy has to say about loss of jobs to automation. Hands down, and I think almost any objective observer would agree, andy won this debate since he had the numbers.

      If his numbers are wrong, please explain how. Did people actually read this?

      I agree that those lost timber jobs cannot be made up by working a motel and selling junk to tourists, it is just not the same, I mourn the loss of woods worker culture too and thank the heavens I had that in my youth. It sucks now for many kids in oregon rural communities but it is the same in many others, it is hard on young people these days.

      • Again, Andy doesn’t include the very wide variety of jobs and businesses that support loggers, ologists, timbermarkers, sale administrators, etc, etc, etc. How many early morning breakfast joints have closed, because their loggers don’t visit anymore? How about the heavy equipment mechanics? How about that little saw shop, down the street? How about the outdoor store that sells raingear and wool shirts? How about the mall, where kids of loggers no longer spend as much money? How about the single Mom real estate gal, who cannot sell enough homes to pay the bills. I think there are some numbers that haven’t been presented.

        • He is using state figures for direct, primary industry employment in logging and mills, he is in no way denying these secondary, community jobs related to the industry. As you may know calculating such secondary employment is harder but it is real.

          And how much room does he have to explain all of this in a short column?.

          And with job declines due to automation in mills, many of those related jobs will also go. that depend on worker paychecks And those declines have happened even after the major declines that came just after the precipitous drop i federal harvest. And even with an increased BLM harvest will continue to decline.

          For someone who does not even have a college degree he does extremely well in my book. He does his reading, knows his material, and presents it cogently. Those in his choir may think he did well but Geisinger did not address any of Andy’s key points and embarrassed himself with a wider audience.

          • Greg: I can see we agree to disagree. However, some of the very brightest people I know have not had college degrees, including my own 93-year old business partner. I realize this is mostly a statement about the generation before Kerr, but in my own instance (and I suspect yours as well) I was very well educated via books, journals, discussions, and practical experience before I ever returned to college in my late 30’s, and pretty much coasted from there academically. Measured financially, I was far (far) more successful as a High School graduate than I have ever been as a PhD. And I didn’t say Andy wasn’t bright or well spoken.

      • Hi greg: Two points. First, Andy says that logging jobs have been cut in half: yep, and Jim points out that the landbase has been more than cut in half with the removal of federal timber from the Oregon economy: “Do the math.” As Larry points out, it’s not just the jobs in the woods, it is the “multiplier effect” of a large number of additional jobs being supported by each timber job. Second, WHAT “older mills”? Almost all of the mom’ n pop sawmills have been closed for years or decades. Rough n’ Ready was the last mill standing In Josephine County, some of your old stomping ground, and covered with rotting federal snags and overcrowded federal forests. Lincoln County used to have more than 150 gyppo sawmills when I was a kid. Now there are maybe one or two. Maybe. My longtime business associate, Wayne Giesy, DOES work for an “old sawmill” — the last of its kind, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Maybe that needs to “go the way of automation,” too?

        And not being present for Andy’s “more than 15 minutes of fame” you missed the part of his career and self-serving pronouncements that have made me forever distrust the man and whatever distortions and falsehoods that come out of his mouth. I could care less what he supports these days. His motives will forever — in my mind, at least — be suspect. A few years ago he was shilling for the anti-ranching community. I don’t know if being a vainglorious snake oil salesman is curable or not, but too many families have bought his product only to find themselves much sicker than when they first got ill — and yet he claims no personal responsibility: must be the “manufacturer,” not the huckster. I’ll stop there before I start getting into exact details and have to say what I really think. I’ll let Jim Petersen do some of that instead: http://evergreenmagazine.com/web/_Conservationist_Andy_Kerr_Comes_Down_From_His_Mountain.html

  2. now looky here.

    You can dip too much into personal invective which is acceptable in private but hardly in most public professional environments. I suggest you (and others) back away from personal diatribes on this blog.

    As an emotive, often loud person known for public yelps and snarls, I walk that thin line too often myself. Sometimes I am fun to have in the room but lets face it, we are not in the crummy or on the landing any more, although I do miss those days. ( if you do not know what a crummy is the rest of ya, no point explaining, you missed it, but them were the days. And did we talk.)

    Engaging in bites at Kerr here does not address his very specific numbers.

    I am unclear as to how much the total changes in forest industry jobs are due to declines in federal harvest-a lot I am sure, but his numbers for automation in mills are credible. This has been a trend for decades preceding the owl wars.

    Overall jobs have declined with federal harvest but his point about mill automation is valid. I was surprised to also see a 25% decline in logging employment per Mbf too, someone else can explain that, I suppose that automation has hit there too. on some ground.

    • Logging and milling jobs per million board feet of logs cut — 2.04 logging and 7.91 milling jobs in 1995, 1.52 logging and 3.52 milling jobs in 2012, declines of 26% and55% respectively.

    This surprises me. How can mill capacity increase so much with such a decline in harvest. This indicates a large over capacity, meaning many older mills will have to close. (What was total harvest in 94/95 compared to now???)

    • Milling capacity of Oregon softwood sawmills — 5,842 million board feet of lumber in 1995, 7,237 million board feet of lumber in 2012, an increase of 24% (with 43% fewer mills).

    And what is wrong with this statement by Andy ??. The Defazio BLM bill excludes stands over 120 years average age with those big logs.

    ——————-

    More of the remaining 54 mills will close. Nine remaining Oregon lumber mills have a business model that requires the milling of large logs from large trees that come from old forests. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Peter DeFazio and Greg Walden all oppose logging such forests and agree the social license no longer exists to log older forests on federal public forestlands.

    —————-

    Gosh, golly, many of his numbers make sense and Geisinger did not address them. He just avoids the gist of Andy’s argument.

    • Hi greg: I’m pretty sure you must be talking to me when you refer to “personal invective” towards Andy Kerr — and that would be correct. I won’t say what I really think of him and the effect he has had on the lives of thousands of rural families in the western United States or what I think his actual motives may have actually been. By comparison, I have been polite. However, as the poster of this column I have been very clear as to my own bias — but after stating my thoughts in regards to repeating his stuff, I have asked others to keep an open mind. I doubt I’ve actually poisoned the well for too many here — we all seem to have firm beliefs and my brief rant isn’t going to change anyone’s mind — in fact, to many readers (maybe including yourself), I’ve probably done more damage to my own credibility than I have to Andy’s. If so, that really doesn’t concern me as much as it probably should. His numbers are probably fine, and maybe Geisinger should have addressed a couple of them, but in the greater scheme of things they are pretty irrelevant. I don’t know Kerr personally, but I do know him intellectually and professionally and that is the basis of my invective. My alternative would be not to even post his side of the discussion and/or pretend that I think he’s a credible source. That will never happen, so you can read my clearly stated biases against the man and weigh them against my cautions, or you can just skip what I’ve written. Just please note that I’ve never posted anything by Kieran Suckling or DellaSala at all, and this is the first time I’ve ever quoted Kerr ever. Probably the last, too, and mostly to put Geisinger’s comments in context and to be somewhat “fair.” Plus, I don’t see where Geisinger avoided the “gist” of Andy’s argument. Seems to me he took it head on. What did he miss?

  3. Ahhh….the old, “It’s OK if you lose your job today….cause you’re gonna lose it in 20 years through mechanization anyway” fallacy. You see….Andy had your best interest in mind in 95 and you should thank him for doing you a favor.

    Oh…Oh…let’s not forget the Ol’ “It’s OK to lose your job today…cause you’ll get a better one selling ice cream cones to tourists for 3 months a year…that is if those tourist jobs show up…which they didn’t.” Show me one tourist who didn’t return to Oregon because he saw some stumps…and I’ll show you a few who didn’t come back because his favorite get-away was burned off. But I guess that doesn’t apply in Kerrenomics. But then…perhaps the future of eco-tourism is communing with nature in the middle of a burn….hey…now that’s a spin.

    These tired enviro bromides are like shooting fish in a barrel.

  4. WOW – Mr. Kerr fits right in with those who will twist things any way that they can to keep their own job.

    First let’s address Mr. Kerr’s most inane comment: “To the timber industry, jobs are just a cost of doing business; the reason it does business is profit.”
    –> No profit, no jobs. The same goes for any industry.
    –> Consider the recent one day impromptu walkout by fast food and other service workers insisting on a doubling of their wages. The industries involved made it very plain that automation would be much cheaper. Things got quiet real quick.
    –> Does Mr. Kerr want us all to go back to subsistence farming and the barter system in order to insure that everyone that wants to eat will have a job?
    –> Maybe Mr. Kerr should demand that gov’t make a law requiring that all businesses hire enough employees to absorb all of their profits from the prior year. Or would he rather require that all employee wages should be lowered proportionately so that everyone that wanted a job could have one and balance everything so that no business would allowed to have a profit?

    Re: “What workers there are in the more-automated Oregon lumber mills of the future will more likely be wearing a technician’s white coat than a blue-collared shirt. In the woods, automation means more workers operating joysticks inside air-conditioned cabs than setting chokers.”
    -AND-
    “What about those current and future Oregon jobs that depend on clean water, abundant wildlife, and scenic beauty?”
    –> What is wrong with better paid jobs?
    –> Aren’t “those current and future Oregon jobs” in other industries going to depend on more and more automation and white coated technicians to survive? If they don’t, there eventually won’t be any customers because costs will be too high compared to products from China so there won’t be any jobs in Oregon or anywhere else in the US. This is pure, shoot yourself in the foot, economic ignorance. Does he think that Oregon workers will voluntarily accept lower wages in order to keep out automation? Are Oregon workers willing to compete with Chinese and Malaysian wage rates? Has Mr. Kerr even heard about the global economy? Does Mr. Kerr understand that he lives on the same globe as those countries who have very weak environmental laws who will supply his furniture and other wood needs if he artificially constrains US wood production based on fears which have no net positive global environmental reason?
    –> Why the double standard?
    –> Who said anything about not following the existing laws and destroying “clean water, abundant wildlife, and scenic beauty”? Who said that the state would exempt the O&C lands from BMPs? Who said that the feds would discontinue their compliance with BMPs under HR1526?
    –> Who said that substitution wasn’t possible with HR1526?

    Re: “Oregon logging and milling jobs — 3.23% of all Oregon jobs in 1995, 1.56% of all Oregon jobs in 2012, a decrease of 52%.”
    –> As Mr. Geisinger says: “Timber harvest levels in Oregon have been reduced by half as a result of the efforts of Mr. Kerr and his colleagues in the environmental movement. Nearly all of the reduction has occurred from federal forest lands. The industry is half the size it once was. The math is pretty simple.”

  5. I’ve never heard of the Associated Oregon Loggers, so I looked up their IRS 990 on-line. For those who aren’t familiar, looking up the 990 of a non-profit environmental group is a common practice on this blog, so I figured it would be good to do it for the Associated Oregon Loggers. Looks like Jim Geisinger made over $200,000 in 2012.

    • Jeez, Matt, and he’s got a 1,000 members in his organization, just steered them through one of the roughest times in their history, and has been on the job with “the first AOL” for nearly two decades. Now maybe you can tell us how much money Andy Kerr raked in during those same years. The big difference is that Jim has been saving jobs all that time, while Andy has gone about doing his best to destroy them. How much does Sierra Club pay it’s officers, did you say? The Nature Conservative, theirs? Nice research skills, though — just bet you can’t come up with a legitimate figure on Kerr.

      • Hello Bob. Like I said, I’m just doing the 990 research that is often done about environmental groups and posted on this blog, sometimes with some sort of allegation of wrongdoing. Anyway, if you find me a group Mr. Kerr is associated with, I’d be happy to look up their 990 and post it here.

        • Thanks, Matt: That was my point — by comparison, Geisinger’s income is very modest when compared to the larger environmental organizations or most businesses of similar size. Kerr got away from the reportable income organizations nearly 20 years ago. He is a flexible “opportunist” and one can only estimate his actual income by the homes he buys and the travel he takes. Maintaining residences in both Ashland, Oregon and Washington DC — and commuting between them — can’t be that cheap.

          • OK, so let me weigh in… the only reason I brought up the 990’s in the first place was that
            1) they show what organizations get from where.

            2)if policy is based on settlements (don’t believe me, read JWT (hey, that rhymes)), then I think we need to know who’s funding policy and thereby choosing what happens. Their physical and class location is helpful information in understanding why people have their points of view.

            3) and I guess it’s always interesting to see who pays what for what (human nature).

            BUT who knows.. where anyone gets the money they spend.. they might have invested in any number of things.. and I don’t want to get into judging other people’s spending patterns. I guess what I’m saying is that I think it’s OK for folks to make money being in organizations, but it’s helpful to know where bucks are going in and out, and for what. I also like to know who’s on the board to see if I know them and their interests.

          • Andy lives with his sweetie in DC, I know her well, and she owns the house, not him. I doubt seriously that this tough cookie would sell a share to him. I suppose I could ask her but that seems ungraceful.

            I much doubt Andy has made nearly as much money as you suspect. (??) His company is the Larch Company which you can look up in the state data base.

            But, enough on personalities. I don’t think many enviros make 200k, I may be wrong, Matthew would know.

            • Greg: I don’t know of many enviros that help keep 1000 family businesses working, either. The ones that are close (Sierra Club, Nature Conservative, etc.) pay a whole lot more. Mostly the successful enviros are the ones putting people — except lawyers (sorry, Guy) and fundraisers — out of work.

  6. Let’s pick another natural resource industry to illustrate the logic. Oil and gas (since we haven’t had “derrick wars” yet) would seem to be good.

    People use oil and gas.
    Natural gas has climate change advantages over coal, which currently runs many of our power plants.
    Oil and gas companies make profits
    Oil and gas companies work on federal lands
    Oil and gas companies are increasingly automated and employ lots of white collar folks as well.
    Oil and gas companies can hurt the environment and are regulated. People are always disagreeing about exactly how to regulate.
    So let’s not have oil and gas jobs, because
    “What about those current and future Colorado jobs that depend on clean water, abundant wildlife, and scenic beauty?”

    As to “scenic beauty” I would take a timber sale over a gas rig any day.
    The idea that we can have both (wildlife, water, and resource production) and the center of contention to ensure that should be the regulations themselves seems to be a given for oil and gas.
    Not so for timber in Oregon… 1) one possibility is that timber doesn’t have as much political clout in DC as O&G has in DC. (and this is not just a D thing either IMHO).
    2) Given the full page ad in the Oregonian, it seems like national groups see this as challenge to their power… for some reason timber is more in their sights than oil and gas (yes, there is plenty of anti-fracking stuff; and that is really against all gas activity in Colorado for example), but Sierra Club had an anti-coal campaign and you can’t be against coal and also against oil and gas in the short term. Too many people understand that “only renewables right now” is not possible.
    3) Timber industry is not as effective in media/public relations (?).
    4) People in Oregon still see things through the lens of the timber wars and there is an infrastructure of groups who have not moved on.

    Other hypotheses?

  7. The missing forest “products” jobs are the ones ancillary to the actual logging and milling. If no loggers clear cut or partial cut or thin, there are no related jobs in tree planting, brush piling for burning (removing fuels which is not done on the Federal estate), pre-commercial thinning, a variety of habitat improvement jobs, road building and maintenance, road reconstruction for fisheries benefit and myriad other management practices I forgot. In fact, you don’t need and there are no longer, management personnel needed or employed to husband the USFS lands. But most of all, rural Oregon lost the important core of moral, educated, civic minded professionals in all disciplines of land management that were necessary for proper husbandry of the vast Federal Estate. Outside the Chief’s Office, the Regional Offices, the USFS is staffed at maybe 30% of the level it was in 1980. Supervisors Offices have been shunted into some back alley headquarters with those of another Forest, and have less staff than one SO had in the 1980s. Half the Ranger Districts are closed or have been melded into another one or two to become one Super District, and that staffed at minimum levels. Most of the “employees” the public sees handing out pamphlets and selling maps are volunteers or retirees working part time. The folks to do all that work that Andy Kerr deems necessary and wants to litigate over, no longer are employed in the numbers needed to do the work. Add to that the insanity of every USFS budget being raided for fire fighting expenses incurred because they didn’t do the needed fuels management work or logging (which also removes fuel.) Congress is a majority from East of the Mississippi River. The West is a minority in Congress and the rural West is a minority within that minority. So the Congress spends little on the National Forests, as the National Forests no longer are a net income producer as they once were, paying their way and employing people as Teddy Roosevelt envisioned they should. Establish a progressive government land management presence throughout the vast Federal Estate. Now, however, National Forest job holders are not important constituents for the majority in Congress. And money, Federal funding, is jobs, as the Obama Admin is so trying to illustrate with the punitive and directed Federal shut downs and furloughs. The President has proven my point. So as to Andy and his cohorts, I would say again they are only telling you the numbers they deem necessary to move their agenda, and it is a one sided, biased plan to lock up the Federal Estate and watch it burn. I do think they are getting that job done. Burning the vast forests to save them is so McNamara, so Vietnam Johnson thought. I thought the hippy revolution took us past that kind of Machiavellian thinking. The institutional forest management memory now has been lost by the USFS, and so has the work ethic and commitment to local communities. The District Ranger is a “temp” on her or his way to a better job in the SO, RO, or CO. Transient USFS fast trackers on their way to SES jobs and Washington DC. Lawyers instead of foresters. Micro managers of specific species instead of landscape managers. And far, far too few of them to now make a difference in lightly populated rural areas. Those are the lost jobs that have really demeaned the quality of rural life and local leadership. The automation of mills has been to cut more square sided lumber out of round tapered logs by mathematical potential. True conservation of a resource. Logging from a cab is not injury proof, as I have a son now well into the second year of recovering from having a stroker shove a log into him while he was running yarder. Lucky to be alive, that lad. Andy forgets to tell you that trees grow every year, even in bad droughts. And fuels get more each year. Nor does he tell you more than “salvage logging is mugging a burn victim.” Actually, salvage removes the contributors to faster spring snowmelt and earlier runoff, by removing the trees sloughing the black detritus onto the snow to absorb solar energy. Leaving the burned trees is mugging the watershed and increasing the length of the summer drought, punishing fish. Left to Andy, forest management is to lose the forests to ever increasing fire size and severity. Now that is really insanity: doing no proactive management, year after year, expecting a better result. How is that working out?

    • Very well said, John! I can verify everything you said, from my 25 years of experience. Employees, especially temporaries, are used, abused, and then thrown away. The permanent timbermarker is one of those “endangered species”, no longer seen to be valuable to cultivate or keep. Timber Sale Administrators are reaching retirement age, and many younger folks in that role want out, due to drama and uncertainty. More than ever, we need to be capturing that “institutional knowledge” but, there are no plans to hang on to it. There are no career ladders in timber management. The only entry-level jobs are temporary, with no possibility of advancement or job security. I would not advise young people to take a temporary job, which is limited to six months of work, minus the one hour needed to gain permanent status and benefits. Where is the incentive to excel? This has gone on since the 80’s, and the Forest Service has admitted the abuse of temporary employees.

    • Andy kerr is much in favor of fuels and thinning projects in many areas to keep forests from torching completely, I read his stuff closely. Not quite the devil some may have seen in years past.

      Believe me, Hanson’s rosy view of fire impacts is on an extreme end. Other enviros have mixed feelings, I would say confused feelings since most are not scientists asking questions; In private moments, most thought the mortality in Biscuit sucked, and in worse moments tried to blame it on the FS fire fighting tactics.

      Man, it was a weird time, talking about it is like dissecting a toxic marriage for me. Let’s say. after that I got a divorce. But I am proud that I stood up for the FS when it mattered, many thanked me for that which meant a lot to me, and I am always proud to say that I worked once for the US Forest Service, the best land management agency on the planet, problems and all.

      I agree about loss of FS jobs, and what they brought in many other ways to their rural communities.

      But andy’s point which i have not seen countered with specifics, is that automation in mills will end up costing far more jobs in the long run for the industry even with increases in harvest with the Defazio bill. This has been the trend for decades, Are people actually reading what he is saying or just reacting since it is andy? That would never fly in court.

      • I am just reacting because it is Andy. “Consider the source.” What he is saying isn’t new or original in any way — just another way to get his name in the newspaper — from my perspective. In the 1930’s my great uncle (later step-grandfather), Ben Robbins, tried out one of the first chain saws in the US — a “Timber Beast” from Canada. It blew up on the large diameter trees of southwest Washington. After WW II everyone started using cats and log trucks; towers replaced spar trees; feller-bunchers replaced cats and timber fallers; and so on. Automation is not a new thing, nor are prophets of doom. It didn’t take long for saw shops to replace livery stables in logging towns, and now Andy is saying machinery and computers will replaced loggers and sawmill workers. So what? They still need people to build them, operate them, and repair them. Jobs, no matter what the equipment.

        The problem is our federal lands are burning and rotting away in whole ugly hillsides at a time, while our counties are growing broke, and we’re having to import the very materials we need from Canada while we wastefully ruin our own. Are we really that rich and decadent? That stupid? Andy, and people like him, are more than a little responsible for this mess. He helped create it and got wealthy doing so. And now we’re supposed to listen to him because he thinks thinning and logging are suddenly OK, and he thinks automation will replace some jobs? Won’t happen, and for good reason.

        Andy screwed over a lot of people for purposes of his own career advancements. He told lies to people right to their faces if he had to, to get his way. His log house in Joseph was seen — rightfully, in my opinion — as a laughable symbol of his hypocrisy and ill-gotten new wealth. A rotten apple doesn’t become fresh and worth eating with a coat of colored wax, and I’ll leave it at that.

  8. It’s very interesting that in two opinion pieces about the timber industry and Oregon and jobs neither perspective gives any facts or figures about just how many of the trees cut down in Oregon are exported as raw logs to places like China and other Asian markets.

    According to this April 2013 oped piece from Forester and Timber Broker Roy Keene:

    In 2012, exporters shipped out nearly a third of Oregon’s annual harvest, simultaneously outsourcing thousands of jobs. Timber exported from Oregon is milled into finished wood products in China, then shipped back to the United States at prices that out-compete our own mills.”

    And

    “The volume of timber on Oregon’s private forest has been reduced from more than 165 billion board feet in 1930 to 80 billion feet today. Most of this loss of volume has resulted from the liquidation of industry’s mature forest.”

        • Bob

          WY 2012 Log Sales 12.3million cubic meters – sales from Canada 0.5million cubic meters (4.1%). Note: These are the total sales from timberlands to all customers including to WY mills as required by the REIT structure.

          I could find no source that said how much WY lumber went from Canada to the US

          ******EVERYONE**************************************************
          Let me go on to say that I am extremely dismayed by the general tone of most of the comments regarding economics and business in general on this blog.

          Re: All of this negativity about export sales of logs:

          1) Export sales to anywhere is the right of any enterprise providing that they don’t compromise US security or other laws. And if you are a big supporter of Obama, like GE, you can even break a few laws to export to Iran. If anyone wants to fuss and cuss about exported jobs why aren’t they fussing and cussing about Apple? Why do most American car companies have more foreign parts in them than Toyotas and Hondas? Anyone want to bet that there is more automation in these industries than in forestry related business? Why the double standard? Why the out of kilter priorities?

          2) Export sales have increased profit to a small degree which helped to keep some jobs that otherwise would have been lost due to the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008. The bursting of the govt created bubble forced me into retirement. Does anyone think that those logs could have been sold into a depressed US housing market? You wouldn’t believe all of the overflowing inventories that sat in our and in contract warehouses. In 2008 and 2009 I was heavily involved in coordinating harvest volumes in the MS/AL region with the constant turning off and on of WY sawmills as they ran out of room to store finished lumber and then crank up for a couple of days until they blocked out again. We burnt a lot of cash just trying to maintain our market share, keep loggers from going bankrupt, and keep our own people employed.

          3) Matthew calls cutting down more trees for export “A touch greedy, eh?” Well, markets come and go and now that the US market is recovering the greatly overbuilt Chinese market is slowing down. Does anyone realize that there are large new cities in China that are virtually empty. So now more logs will stay in the US and less will go to China. Where is the greed in reducing losses in order to keep more employees than if they had disdained export log sales. DOES ANYONE REALIZE THAT WY LOST 1.7 BILLION DOLLARS IN 2008 AND 2009? If they hadn’t just sold off their container board business to IP, things could have been disastrous for WY and its employees? Does anyone understand that you have to make profits to make it through the tough times? Does anyone realize that, unlike the govt, companies can’t just print money when times turn against them? Job stability requires profits. Job stability requires capital to fund what it takes to stay alive as a viable business. Capital is needed for new technology, finding new markets, replacing worn out equipment. Who here has the wisdom to decide what profit is acceptable without costing jobs?

          4) Does anyone understand the impacts on business from a global economy? Does anyone realize that a global economy means that unless we use technology to compensate for our high wages (yes, even minimum wages are high) the same thing will happen to the rest of our low tech business as happened to our clothing and furniture industries?

          My impression is that between academia, environmental organizers, federal employees and etc., over 75% of the members of this blog are in favor of government control of business activities. It worked real good for the USSR didn’t it? It’s working great for the USFS isn’t it? It worked great when Congress ordered the mortgage companies to award loans to people who couldn’t afford to buy a home didn’t it? If you want to rail against business, rail against all of the collusion in the banking/financial industry with the Secretary of the Treasury who didn’t even bother to pay his own taxes and with the gov’t bailing them out for taking inappropriate risk. The banks knew they were too big to fail so they had nothing to loose so why not. Yup, gov’t control works great doesn’t it.

          We have a lot of people here who have never been involved in what it takes to keep a forest healthy or to keep a business going to create and maintain jobs for any length of time at any level of significant responsibility. Whether we are talking about forestry or business in general, we have pontification without any comprehension of the implied contradictions, the impossible tradeoffs and the unintended consequences inherent in their simplistic grand schemes.

          I have often heard of how uninformed the majority of Americans are in terms of understanding economics. Considering the level of education of the members of this group, I expected more. I am greatly dismayed.

          • Gil: I really like log exports. So do many people in the Coos Bay and Astoria areas — it creates lots of local jobs and it is good for the economies of both Oregon and the US. The idea that we are “exporting jobs” is basically a stupid concept that makes little sense. It is odd that the US can be so excited about exporting wheat, automobiles, software, military weapons, etc., and somehow look down on exporting logs. Never have figured this anti-forest management bias out, or why people have bought into it.

      • Meanwhile, it’s important to remember, Steve, that most everyone in the environmental movement spoke out against NAFTA back in the day. What about the timber industry?

        Also, isn’t US softwood lumber consumption way, way down because of the continuing economic crisis?

        And I think it might be helpful in this discussion about the Oregon timber industry and jobs to repost a figure you posted in another comment thread. The figure comes from a FAQ from DeFazio’s office about the O & C lands, but it says: “more than 3,500,000,000 board feet of timber is logged each year in the State of Oregon.”

        Let’s see: 3.5 billion board feet of trees are cut down annually in Oregon. That’s enough trees to fill 700,000 log trucks, which if lined up end-to-end would stretch for about 6,000 miles, which is the approximate driving distance from Portland, OR to New York, NY and back to Portland, OR.

        And still the timber industry wants to cut down more and more trees. Ship more and more trees around the world? And have taxpayers subsidize dramatic increases in National Forest logging? A touch greedy, eh?

        • Matthew,

          The OFRI report also includes data about the economics of the Oregon forest sector:

          Direct employment: 76,073 jobs

          I’d like to see 100,000 jobs in my state’s forest sector. I think we should harvest and use MORE forest products, from forests in the US — including federal forests — rather than importing so much lumber and logs from Canada and using non-renewable materials such as plastic and steel.

            • I don’t know, Matthew, but I suspect you do and would like to tell us.

              I do know that a portion of the US wood-products industry has supported the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement, which seeks to limit imports from Canada. NAFTA played a role in the advent of the agreement, but I don’t know enough about it say more here.

      • Greg

        Log exports have nothing to do with “the decline in employment per Mbf”

        This is solely the result of improving efficiency within the mill.

        If the mills had been able to run at higher production levels, the “decline in employment per Mbf” would have been even greater due to economies of scale [(i.e. man hours / MBF) or as it is referred to in the industry MBF/man hour would have increased].

        • yep. that makes sense. So mill jobs mean just that, and log exports have no factor in determining those employment levels.

          But such log exports were illegal in BC for a long time, perhaps now too?

            • Thanks, the Vancouver Sun article seems pretty balanced. And keeps our mid-North America travails in perspective (like Oregon and Washington are not the only places where log export is controversial)..

            • That sure puts it in perspective, and in the 70s and perhaps later, such log exports from BC were prohibited. But it seems that there is now a surfeit of logs so no supply crunch forcing mills to shut down like we have in Oregon.

              Given the low log prices, I can’t understand how someone can afford to cut and sell logs to mills (??) without exports to even things out.

            • Ok, and the article mentions stiff restrictions on log exports which must be deemed surplus. I think this could work in the NW, it allows ability to respond to changing markets. But it seems to work well enough in BC since they have that surplus.

              But I do not see anything about what percent of total BC harvest is exported.

              Here is the text…

              “Although it’s an imperfect system, it’s a pretty good system because it’s the right mix of global competitiveness mixed in with protection of a local sawmilling infrastructure,” said Dutcyvich. “And when the export market goes down and the domestic market hopefully comes back, we need those mills. Without those mills, we would be at the mercy of log export. And that’d not be a very comfortable thing.”The export market is driven by price. When the U.S. market was strong, logs exported south commanded twice the price that domestic mills could pay. Now, the Asian market is paying around 30 per cent more.

              This is how the system works: Before they can receive a permit from the federal Timber Export Advisory Committee, exporters need to show that logs are surplus to the needs of domestic manufacturers, cannot be economically processed in the province, or that export will improve utilization and reduce waste.

              There is a surplus test; the timber is advertised for sale. If no offers are received, an export permit is issued. Sawmills can block a permit by making an offer, but they are not obliged to purchase the wood, as markets can change by the time the TEAC process is completed. Further, an exporter pays a fee-in-lieu of manufacturing that varies from five to 15 per cent of the log value, depending on species and grade. The whole process is bureaucratic and time-consuming.

    • Yes, log exports… but worse in WA where I hear half of private harvest is export logs.

      And I keep wondering how much of the decline in Oregon mill employment rate is due to log exports, but perhaps I am comparing apples and oranges. If export logs get no milling, there are no mill jobs to count right (???)

      The really sharp decline in rate of mill employment is a surprise. Much higher than I thought.

      Andy is saying that those jobs have been lost since 1995 which is AFTER the older declines in federal harvest and associated job losses. Those federal harvest declines came 3 years earlier. (??)

      He stated that the jobs were lost after implementation of the NWFP.

      His point is that even with a relatively stable harvest ( minus recent recession) there have been huge job losses at similar harvest levels. As he said, employment per MMbf in logging and milling have declined by half. That is talking about a “rate” of direct jobs for harvest.

      Andy is no fool, he is not going to publish something about job losses due to federal timber declines he was responsible for.

  9. Wow, this one spun down in a hurry —
    First, Greg,
    At least Bob rips Andy over his own full name. So your civility calls don’t have quite the credence as you might think. Wag your finger behind your curtain, all we see is a shadow.
    Second, the idea of mechanization being the end all and all cause, is wrong. The jobs in mechanized forestry are much safer, drier and warmer. While I love dumping trees in SMZ’s, I make it a point to do it only on nice days. Every day? No thank you. I know lots of guys who are happy and a little grateful to strap on a pile of iron rather than handwork stands.
    Mechanical harvest is also done by smarter people. YOU try to not wreck a clipper.
    A half-million plus clipper. YOU try to keep it running.
    Third, even with mechanization, especially in the mills, there are still three-dimensional jobs that will never be robotized. Line yarding? Forget it. There will always be a need for tough, skilled people. Remote control or autonomous harvesting? Right, what happens with a surprise rock or a hose pop? It’s hard enough to fly drones where there’s relatively nothing to hit!
    Finally, so Andy is okay with “thinning.” Of barely-merchantable stuff at high cost so little of it ever happens. Or he’s like Tim Hermach, “thinning” with his daddy’s dull saw when a fire threatens to burn over Dad’s RV.
    As for AOL being a 501c3, hey, Jim is just borrowing a page from a playbook your side wrote, Matt.

    • I am greg nagle, sometimes I sign in as greg, sometimes as greg nagle, I am not behind a curtain You have only been on a few weeks. And I am wagging my finger at you again.

      I have also posted articles with my full name and affiliations.

      I realize now that I had you confused with another skinner, that was carl skinner who is a scientist for the USFS in CA.

      I think it is time to drop off this blog.

  10. Dave, it’s hard to believe someone spends much serious time on this site without being aware of Greg’s consistently constructive attitude, and impressive knowledge/experience base. His calls for civility do have credence, with me anyway, because he walks the walk. I think that’s worth a lot, ymmv. Not wagging my finger, just sayin’ -Guy

    • Thanks, Guy: Plus greg also sometimes uses his last name on his posts — confused me, too: I thought he might have been two people at first, but it turns out he only has a split personality. Good chance you bumped into him during your Biscuit research. Former Hoedad treeplanter turned soil scientist now in the Far East and commenting from Vietnam or someplace nearby (I think). I think he was commenting from Africa before that. Turns out we met (at least) once in Bernard Bormann’s office several years ago.

      Dave, I’m in total agreement with you on most pseudonyms to the point where people here are tired of hearing about it — but some of them are USFS employees (e.g., JZ, Matt V) and have just cause to conceal their identities; and usually they are considerate, know their stuff, and reveal enough about themselves to be credible. Others are just cowardly trolls or phony know-it-alls — but they are being weeded out fairly systematically here. Derek is the same as greg. He has posted here under his full name, and you probably have met him or are familiar with his writing.

      Happy you joined up. You’ve got a lot to offer, and you’re already familiar with a number of the Usual Suspects!

  11. Thanks, I could not figure out how to get off the blog anyway. So I will chill.

    I am in Hanoi Vietnam helping one of the only natural history museums in Asia’ . As usual, I find tree people to connect with, And I lecture on conservation issues at the university and help English classes.

    A lot more people read this blog than some realize and bad impressions can be made.

    I appreciate the diverse points of view, a few barbs are OK, we are human, but we need to be careful to foster a dialogue since we have few opportunities elsewhere.

    People need to go easy on Matthew who keeps pitching things in that keep the pot boiling he has a much thicker hide than me but I fear to lose him.

    I know plenty of enviros and he is surely one of the most level headed, even when I disagree.

    • Greg: Glad you’re staying on, and I agree about Matt. He and I bump heads here about as hard as anyone from time to time — sometimes to the point where Sharon or JZ has to step in to calm things out — but I really do appreciate his input and his ability to maintain a healthy counter perspective. Absolutely critical for any of the meaningful debates that take place, and that need to take place, in my opinion. You may have noticed, though, that those opposing Mathew’s viewpoints often need a pretty thick skin themselves! And, for all of the invective, from time to time, this blog has maintained about as reasoned and (generally) civil a tone as any I’ve ever participated on — and that with far greater diversity of opinion and Type A personalities anywhere else I’ve visited. Appreciated all of your time here and have learned a lot — and enjoyed a few good laughs — by your participation.

        • having spent my life on the left and with enviros, I do get tired of rhetoric and I hear way too much of that in my camp. They are still my camp but I prefer to be crisply, achingly correct, not spouting BS.

          After making my way to science, I prefer to see the real data/

          When I was a hippie kid with really long hair, I could walk into a FS office and be treated like a citizen, this impressed me tremendously, and FS people usually knew a lot more about stuff on the ground than urban enviros, so I could talk with them, even when I disagreed.

          They also strove to present a public persona that some in the other camp might do well to emulate at times.

          But I saw the worst of it in the Biscuit wars, when hate talk gets started, it always needs a target and when I veered from the party line, I got that too.

          A couple of lunatics were shrieking that they caught the FS wildlife people red handed trying to reduce biscuit buffers and sent outraged messages all over the region about how they had been harassed while trying to film the feds.

          I looked at the site and only change I found was that the buffer was made larger. I quit after that and told the feds I would testify for them. I don;’t put up with trash talk.

          But enough on that……

  12. Thanks bob, reminds me of what keeps pulling me back to oregon.
    Last night i talked with 2 americans, the first expats or english speakers I have spoken with in 2 months.

    What that means is how the Vietnamese have made me feel welcome, despite the language barrier.

    Beer helps a lot too.

    Reality is that this blog is one of my primary conversations these days, so slamming the door closed seemed a tad unwise in my case.

  13. Greg,
    You’re at the Hilton, right?
    The name thing is a pet peeve that I have shared, amazingly enough, with none other than Matt K. And now that I know your name, you were already in my personal files.
    So, while I may be new HERE, I am creaky old beyond my years when it comes to bickering over the smoking crater that used to be our National Forests.
    No fancy degrees, just business management and marketing with a snotload of econ and history electives as well as production-line theory and present value analysis. Then, I went skiing for ten years. I’m lay rabble, but smart enough to register when I’m being piled higher and deeper.
    Here’s something that might be salient, to help you understand the unedumacated Skinner a bit (and I have corresponded briefly with Carl, around Donato time) — ever read The Ugly American? After hearing the phrase for years, I did. It’s a wonderful book, about a hero, and what you’re doing flashed me right back.

    • I did not start college until age 32 and never thought higher ed meant that someone knew a lot, a refugee from a DC prep school,. my dad had a phd from georgetown. I always figured that by much reading you can get as much as school, But the advantage of a school environment is mixing with other people and not sliding into being an intelligent, isolated crank which we are wont to do as we slide into those twilight years.

      My gig at cornell was good, my dept chair was from seattle, used to work for Weyerhauser. It was not typical, almost all his grads were like me, much older, mid 30s. we had been out in the world a lot.

      I spent years snarling about academic poodles which they cringed at as I waved the bloody flag of my woods worker years in their youthful, ever hopeful faces.

      But poodles or not, I appreciate the standards of discourse in academia, certain civilities need to be maintained with most people. And they have to do the reading, not grasping the gist of an argument will sink your rep fast. Plenty of cranks, but they best know their stuff.

        • yeah, really, But my dept was good since we were very applied, we did forestry , agriculture and wildlife extension, and few grads went on to academic careers. We were not Yale by any means which hardly does any applied stuff on natural resources. Just policy wonks, much of it pretentious BS. But what else is new?

          Cornell is both state and private, I was in the state school where it was OK to track mud all over the floor. I surveyed 40 streams all over the state. Some people would think i was the janitor and I would shove my faculty ID in their face,

          We also did a lot of work with farmers in the NYC watershed where I did my research.

  14. Will those who decry U.S. “exports” to China…also decry Canadian “exports” to the U.S.? Oops…suddenly, without missing a beat, the enviros are free market capitalists. If Canada hadn’t stepped in to take up some of the slack after the collapse of the USFS…prices may have sky rocketed more than they did…and perhaps our glutinous country wouldn’t have been to thrilled at the high cost and thence wouldn’t have been too thrilled by shutting down the USFS. If I was an enviro…I would thank Canada for enabling the USFS shutdown to “stick.” I have always imagined…if one could track serial numbers on sawmill machinery…that a lot of Canadian sawmill infrastructure originated from U.S. sawmills that were bought at salvage auctions in the U.S. in the 90’s and trucked north of the border. The hippies didn’t stop “demand”….all you did was move the supply around.

    My God this country must look a lot like Rome did right before the fall. “I want to live my enviro idealism….but don’t change my glutinous lifestyle one bit! But hey…I do my part….I recycle aluminum cans.” It’s OK to sacrifice others for the environment…but the extent of the sacrifice made by ALL American’s is limited to recycling aluminum cans. Mendacity.

    • chuckle, I have to agree with some of that, I guess Canadian lumber imports went way up after the NWFP. Or maybe they were just as high before that? I have no real problem with that, since we do use a lot here but I do object to log exports from Oregon which are still illegal in BC (?).

      And we have gotten a huge amount of pulp and paper for decades from eastern Canadian forests which have been cut over many times and do pretty well at that.

      Yes, we have to get those wood products from some place, I support some forms of intensive industrial forestry. I have seen some of the worst and seen much better too.

      Please lay off about hippies, please. Matthew with in his wilderness hunts is not much of a hippie yes? A pretty smart guy. A lot smarter than many hippies I know and he kills animals.

      I know people need to get their ya yas out here but I had hair down my back at one time. They called us the marine corps of the hippies. I planted for 8 years.

      I have seen hundreds of clearcuts in 7 states, I got a perspective on bad forestry even while i can support clearcuts in some places. ( gasp…..don’t pass that on).

      I get sick of hippies too but I get to say that since I am one. Especially the ones around Ujene who can be intolerable.

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