Campbell Group to manage 4FRI

I think having the Campbell Group as the subcontrator on the Four Forests Initiative stewardship contract is a very good thing, and answers critics who noted that Good Earth Power has no experience with forestry in the US (it had focused, so far, on Africa.

Article from Greenwire:

Major forest-thinning project switched to billion-dollar international company

Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter

The Forest Service has transferred the largest forest-thinning project in the country to a new contractor, after the initial contractor failed to obtain sufficient financial backing.

Good Earth Power AZ LLC took over the Forest Service contract from the former contractor, Pioneer Forest Products Corp., last month. On Thursday, Good Earth Power appointed a subcontractor, the Campbell Group, to thin 300,000 acres of forests across four national forests in Arizona over the next 10 years.

Over the long term, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) seeks to treat 2.4 million acres from the Grand Canyon to the New Mexico border over the next 20 years to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. It is the largest stewardship project in the Forest Service’s history.

The Forest Service announced the transfer from Pioneer to Good Earth Power last month. The first phase of the project was initially granted to Pioneer in May 2012, but the company expressed difficulty in securing funding for the work.

In the year-and-a-half since the award, the company has treated only about 900 acres on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. Pioneer eventually asked the Forest Service for a novation, or a transfer of the assets and liabilities of the contract to another firm.

“It’s very clear that they have the financial backing available to secure the contract,” Henry Provencio, 4FRI team leader for the Forest Service, said of Good Earth Power. The new contractor is a subsidiary of an international firm with headquarters in Oman. The Campbell Group, the subcontractor, manages 3.2 million acres, worth $6.1 billion in timberland assets, in the United States and Australia.

Good Earth Power is evaluating existing mills and infrastructure in the region to identify which projects will be best suited to use the wood thinnings, said a spokeswoman for the company. The company plans to use some of the thinned wood waste in a biofuels treatment plant and is looking to complete a pre-feasibility study by January.

It’s likely that Good Earth Power will pick up on Pioneer’s plans to install a 30-million-gallon-per-year wood-to-biodiesel plant using technology developed by Concord Blue USA, an international waste-to-energy firm. This worries Todd Schulke, a senior staff member and co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity, a stakeholder in the 4FRI process and critic of Pioneer.

“It’s really unclear if Good Earth Power is any more substantial than Pioneer was,” he said. “They’re making all of these proposals that don’t add up.”

Green group worries about endangered species

4FRI was implemented as a partnership among the Forest Service, the private sector and environmental advocacy groups around the Kaibab, Tonto, Coconino and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests. Forest Service policies over the last century have restricted thinning in these forests.

A combination of dense ponderosa pine forests and dry conditions due to climate change has increased the wildfire risk and severity in the Southwest (ClimateWire, March 22).

The Center for Biological Diversity has voiced concern that the Forest Service may be using 4FRI as a way to profit from Arizona’s forests, rather than as a technique to reduce large wildfires. The Forest Service’s plan to trim forests into “clumps” of trees, rather than a flammable tangle of woods, could harm the habitat of endangered species like the Mexican spotted owl, the group asserts.

Schulke also questioned the company’s ability to use local Arizona mills — which are suited for large-diameter timber — for the small trees that are cut in the thinning process.

Good Earth Power “will work to support local mills and their existing capacity, identify what other capacity may be needed and then work on a plan for manufacturing growth,” said the spokeswoman for the company.

Last year, critics accused the Forest Service of a conflict of interest in granting the contract to Pioneer, as the company’s chief consultant, Marlin Johnson, was a former Forest Service supervisor.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Grand Canyon Trust, conservation groups and stakeholders in the 4FRI process, had backed Arizona Forest Restoration Products Inc., with whom they had signed a memorandum of understanding in 2009. Pioneer’s bid for the contract was about $9 million less than AFRP’s (Greenwire, June 8, 2012).

In the last two months, Good Earth Power has released nine new task orders to thin 15,219 acres of the 300,000-acre contract.

9 Comments

  1. I don’t think I makes sense, economic or environmental, to have large projects like this. How much better to have locals buying small sales and operating them. I think it is laziness on the part of the Forest Service. Isn’t it the FS responsibility to manage theses forests? I would revolt if the FS in Oregon turned over the FS lands to the Campbell group. The Campbell group already manages private forest ground in the area, its not that they do a bad job, but they certainly don’t have our best interest in mind, but the stock holders.

  2. Stump, I think these large stewardship contracts do make economic and environmental sense. Economic, because the mills, loggers, truckers, and others in the area have some measure of certainty about the harvest levels for ~10 years. Environmentally, because this work needs to get done, and it is unlikely to get done with numerous smaller contracts.

    • The mills, loggers, truckers have work as long as they work for the Campbell group. The Campbell group will take a good share of the profits out of the local community and send them to their stock holders where ever they might be.
      I would rather see a more local approach to forest management where everyone gets a chance to participate, and if the don’t want to work for the Campbell there would still be opportunity to make a living in the forest. I like a more local approach on a smaller scale, more broken up with more opportunity for everyone. These are our public lands and sometimes the only source of employment in these areas.
      Sometimes I think if you make these projects to large it doesn’t give the opportunity to manage to the needs of a local watersheds or areas of interests. What is good one place might not be in another. Maybe they have considered all this in this project. I don’t know. I just know that large projects like this limits opportunities for many different interests to participate. Decisions are already made, either you’re in or you’re out, and you might have to wait another 10 years for another one.

  3. Stump

    Don’t you think that with things the way they are in the nat’l forests, we should be happy for any improvement? I think that Campbell’s desire to keep their good reputation means a lot in a project that has been filled with so many questions about the project’s viability.

    If we get a few good successes under our belt, don’t you think that it will open the door for your approach where the local resources and entrepreneurial spirit support local efforts?

    Also, don’t forget that even local efforts will require a large enough of a stewardship area to ensure the financial success which is only available at certain levels where the economies of scale allow the enterprise to compete successfully in the market place.

    • Around here, all loggers work for SPI, in one form, or another. Rarely does a logger win a bid, and those logs end up going to SPI mills, anyway. It isn’t good for anyone when the mill has a monopoly, and I would hope there would be some room for some smaller mills to bid on smaller projects.

      • Larry

        Agree but even when more mills get in the mix they still have to keep the logging costs down in order improve the mill’s ability to survive. As a result, there are many who are concerned about regaining a sufficient logging force should demand increase significantly. Should that happen mill costs would go up if they had to develop their own logging outfits which the industry tried but moved away from due to the higher logging costs as compared to beating down the independent local logger.

  4. In Arizona, many of the mills that once existed are long gone. That’s why the 4FRI contract includes a requirement to build a mill — there wouldn’t have been enough existing capacity to handle the volume produced under the contract.

  5. I agree we need some improvements in the way things are managed. I am just a bit disturbed when 100% of our natural resource on a national forest in the hands of one private company. The only way I think we are going to grow back a local timber economy is through small sales offering a variety of products.
    Seems like every time I think something like will happen it goes in the opposite direction.
    10 million bft thinning sales, 10 year stewardship contracts on whole forests. It would be nice if you didn’t have to be millionaire to have access to our public forest resources.

  6. I guess the Omanis have lots of money and want to be in energy, not just oil. Smart on their part. And while I agree with Stumpy that it would be nice to have a competitive local market, that’s not possible on current volumes. In fact, it seems like these collaboratives are all about little monopolies in a little wood basket.
    As for the logger share, even with a monopoly, the surviving mills are going to need to get a clue about paying for the iron to get the wood on the truck, as well as paying for the truck.

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