Cheery Story: Bipartisan Support for Another Endangered Sawmill

You know, in this hyperpartisanised atmosphere it is refreshing when Rs and Ds can work together. They seem to be doing this in states with what I call “endangered sawmills” including Colorado and now, Oregon.

Press Release here
Wyden, Merkley announce Malheur Lumber to postpone closure

Washington, D.C. – U. S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) announced on Tuesday that Malheur Lumber has agreed to remain open past its planned November closure, thanks to a commitment by the US Forest Service (USFS) to make more timber volume available on the Malheur national forest.

In response to requests from Senators Wyden and Merkley, the Governor, county government, and local community groups, Regional Forester Kent Connaughton, who oversees Region 6, including the Malheur National Forest, said the USFS will accelerate timber sales and take other steps to speed up forest restoration work and provide a supply of timber for local mills, in letters to Senators Wyden and Merkley.

“Ochoco Lumber is a vital part of the John Day community and their mill represents the kind of infrastructure we can’t afford to lose if we hope to restore eastern Oregon’s overstocked forests,” Wyden said. “We have plenty of hard work ahead of us, but I promise to keep fighting with the rest of the Oregon delegation to get the Forest Service and the mill what they need.”

“I’m thankful to Regional Forester Connaughton for his swift reaction that indicates the Forest Service will take urgent action to provide more timber, and to John Shelk for keeping his mill doors open on this John Day institution. I am also grateful to the others in the state and community that have stepped up and demonstrated their support of this mill,” Wyden said.

“Closure of the mill would be devastating,” said Merkley. “The livelihood of so many families, the broader Grant County economy, and the vitality of our forests are all on the line. Thus, this reprieve is joyous and welcome news indeed. It must be recognized, however, that more work needs to be done. We need to fully secure a long-term, sustainable supply of sawlogs with the full commitment to the planning and field resources necessary to make that happen.”

“I continue to work on all options to create jobs in our forests and forested communities and provide more timber for mills across Oregon,” said Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.). “The crux of the problem is the need to reduce the regulatory gridlock that drives the cost of producing timber and jobs through the roof and largely prevents our land managers from doing work needed to improve forest health and create jobs in and value from our forests. Communities and businesses must have access to the natural resources that surround them to create jobs and reduce the risk and occurrence of wildfire.”

In light of the Forest Service letter (available here) as well as an outpouring of support for Malheur Lumber from the Oregon delegation, the Governor, county commissioners, the Blue Mountain Forest Partners collaborative and the John Day community, Shelk said Ochoco will put the mill closure on hold, at least for the next few months.

“This commitment is a good first step, and I’m thankful to Senator Wyden and the rest of the delegation for putting in the hard work that gives me the confidence to keep our mill running,” Shelk said. “Thanks to their efforts, and the outstanding community support over the past few weeks, we’ve authorized our foresters to buy enough public and private timber to keep the mill in operation past the planned November closure.”

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber: “Malheur Lumber is a key cog in the economy of eastern Oregon. I am gratified by the outpouring of support for Malheur Lumber and the Blue Mountain collaborative, and appreciate the work that the Forest Service and Senator Wyden are doing to keep this mill open. The state is working with Senator Wyden and the rest of the Oregon delegation to find solutions that will keep our vanishing mill infrastructure and jobs in place.”

It sounds like Ochoco Lumber employs about 80 folks, based on this news story. I couldn’t find the numbers on the company website, but it does seem to be locally owned (not multistate, nor multinational, it sounds barely multi-county)! They did have a link to the benefits here.

13 thoughts on “Cheery Story: Bipartisan Support for Another Endangered Sawmill”

  1. Sharon: Ochoco Lumber is owned (or at least managed) by John Shelk:

    Shelk is a sharp businessman who’s family has deep roots in eastern Oregon. There has been controversy in regards to his relations with Senator Wyden, environmental activist Andy Kerr, and others in order to make a profit and keep his mill going the past few years. Looks like the USFS blinked at this juncture. About time, too.

    • Mac, With all due respect, “So what?”

      Forest Growth Should Exceed Harvest.

      The timber industry likes to point out that federal forests are currently growing faster than they are being harvested. This is true, and it’s a good thing, because for decades the USFS and BLM were irresponsibly liquidating the public’s forests much faster than they were growing. Around 1990, harvest slowed and the agencies finally stopped logging faster than the forests were growing. Now they are bouncing back.

      After decades of overcutting, our forests and watersheds (and the habitat within them) are experiencing a much needed period of recovery and rebuilding. Accumulating forest growth represents developing habitat, improving water quality, and accumulating carbon storage – all good things. This is an intentional and expected result of the Northwest Forest Plan. Those who suggest otherwise are preying on people’s ignorance of the plan and the forests’ need for healing.

      From an ecological perspective, forests actually depend on forest growth being in balance with mortality (over large scales of space and time). Excessive logging exports mortality and disrupts this balance. High quality habitat includes a mix of live and dead trees that serve different functions in the ecosystem.

      The Forest Service says “Nearly a third of all forest creatures depend on standing dead or fallen trees for their survival.” If all growth is harvested there would not be any “mortality” to stay in the forest and serve essential ecological functions. Dead wood is important in both young and old forests. Such “legacy” structures provide important links between past and future stands. This is one of the reasons that clearcutting is ecologically unacceptable. It erases the critical links between past and future. Note also that much of the “excess growth” cited by the timber industry occurs on trees that are currently too young to be commercially logged, or on old trees that nearly everyone agrees should not be logged. The remaining net growth on public forests goes to address the old forest deficit caused by past overcutting and to enhance public values like clean water, habitat, and carbon storage.

      • Tree: Your response is a little scary. Yes it has a few facts scattered through it, but it sounds almost verbatim like an pseudo-science anti-logging screed from the ’90s. There is no starting point in a response to what you have written, and maybe no antidote, either.

        Maybe it would help if you quoted someone more precisely than “The Forest Service,” or at least try an attempt at defining “essential ecological functions” or even “public values,” but I’d guess not.

        You do come across as self-assured, however, in your pronouncements. Do you have a real name and employment? Or is your implied authority mostly based on your anonymity?

      • Once again, with 40 million acres of dead and dying forest, there is NO lack of snags and downed logs in our forests. Once again, we haven’t clearcut here, since 1993. Many of our trans-sierra highways now have state of the art thinning and fuels reduction projects prominently displayed for long stretches. Many current forests are so very far from pre-European conditions that preserving them seems less “scientific” than managing them back to an old growth-like state in a shorter time span.

  2. And that’s assuming that pre-European is, first, desirable (e.g., grizzlies were in central California, do we need to move people out to get them back?) and secondarily, do-able, both with climate change and any costs associated.

    It seems to me that we can’t go back in time, so we need to figure out what we want to do with forests that works now, and that we can afford to keep up, and then do it.

  3. I was up in Montana a month ago photographing some Beautifull doug fir thinning that none other than Ted Turner did on his ranch…from the public ROW of course (Ted has more No trespassing signs than a military base). Ted has logged a couple thousand acres of his ranch, in response to beetle epidemics, including quite a bit of salvage clearcutting of MPB killed lodgepole. Ted is the perfect example of Moderate enviros what have changed their mind about logging, but what bugs me is he was very loud when practicing his environmentalsm (a decade ago he funded the radical Alliance for wild rockies), but he’s very quite about practising his forestry. Meanwhile the adjacent Gallatin takes seven years to TRY and log in Bozeman’s watershed.

    Another pet peeve of mine regarding the USFS. In the last 3 quarters of FY 2012, the USFS in Montana has sold only 50MMBF of timber, and 20 of that was personel use firewood. Only 10 was “sawtimber!I’d say they’re on track to selling the LEAST amount ever(we’ll see what this quarter brings). I suspect that there hs been a delay by the USFS in repsonse to radical judge Molloy’s ruling on the 9th circus storm water junk. However, I digress. I was reading an EIS from the Beaverhead Deerlodge forest this morning, and the USFS in Montana is practicing a lot of what I call “pop forestry.” They have entire EA’s dedicated to non commercial “slashing and RX burning “small diameter trees.” At a cost of $300/acre. With ridiculous prescriptions like “slashing all small diameter trees within one tree length of a large Doug fir”and “girdling trees to make snags”, in a forest with a million acres of MPB mortality. The project I looked at was going to spend 1 million dollars to treat 3400 acres! And they claim they don’t have the resources to crank out more timber sales? On a forest that logs 1% in 30 years! These pop forestry projects will treat such a miniscule percentage of the forest as to be ludicrous. THAT is the difference between state and Federal forestry.And that is also the difference between Ted Turner’s forestry and Federal.

    • Interesting to me Derek, how you find valid, non-commerical logging forestry prescriptions such as slashing small diameter trees around larger trees to be “ridiculous,” but you don’t find it “ridiculous” when the taxpayer foots the bill for clearcutting or regeneration harvest of forests on our federal public lands.

      • Well, of course, one would bundle those non-commercial units with sawtimber units. Otherwise, it doesn’t get done. Both pieces of land need management, and one pays for the other.

    • Sure Sharon. The project is the “Trapper Creek Project.” Here’s the link:

      Unfortunately, on these “non-commercial” project EA’s, the USFS doesn’t have an economics section that details “costs.” So, I found the “costs” on the “Fleecer Mountain Project”, on page 265 of the EA, which has a “commercial” and “non commercial” component. here’s that linK:

      In table 94, look at the “non-commercial douglas-fir removal” Divide $192,000 by 620 acres treated= $300.

      As an aside, it is VERY difficult to find the “costs” associated with USFS treatments. Not every EA or EIS has them. As usual…no uniformity.Of course, forget about finding what it cost to prepare the EIS or EA. As I understand it, the USFS doesn’t keep track of who spends time on what project. Funny, on my timecard, our company has “job numbers, phases,tasks, sub task, job codes. I guess spending five minutes at the end of the day recording that would be a burden to the employees of the USFS. Wouldn’t it be neat if the USFS did an “audit” and tracked a few projects on each forest in Montana (not all)and compared the costs to prepare an EIS to one in, say Colorado. Just for research purposes of course. The common USFS response to litigation from radical enviros in Montana is to “upgrade” a EA to an EIS (I’ve seen this several times). One USFS forester recently told me that, because of radical litigation, the Northern region has given up on EA’s and now just prepare EIS’s. My point is, don’t the public have a right to know how much radical enviro litigation costs us taxpayers? I guess democracy, the right to know, and “transparency” stops at appeasing the radicals. I also want to point out..that the “timber” budget of the BHDL, is only around 10% of the total budget(who knows how much “wildlife” dollars are spent on timber projects)which amounts to around $1,500,000. Of course, another figure that’s not readily available to the plebians is what the individual forest budgets are. you can sometimes gleen this from “monitoring reports.” Which I did on the BHDL-at one time.

      • Just so I can have your vernacular clear in my own head Derek, let’s see if I got this correct: “Radical enviros” file “radical litigation”….even though US Federal Judges find much merit to this “radical litigation” filed by “radical enviros.” Yup, successfully suing the federal government through the US Federal Court System is easy as pie. Anyone can do it and the US Government always loses, right? And all federal litigation filed by citizen watchdogs against the federal government must be considered “radical litigation.” Is that about right, Derek?

  4. Here’s one more thing you may get a kick out of. On page 25 of the Fleecer Mountain project EA, look under the description for the pre-commercial thinnign RX. Only stands harvested in the 60’s and 70’s would get PCT. “stands harvested in the 80’s and 90’s would NOT be treated to maintain winter snowshoe hare habitat.” And you wonder why Plum Creek land has the highest Lynx density around the “Colt-Summit timber sale near Seely Lake Mont. Pathetic paradox.


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