Unusual Groups Align to Support Endangered Sawmill

Long but complete article from the Oregonian.
Here’s a link.

Below is an excerpt.

“Had you told me 10 years ago that I would be trying to keep a mill open in eastern Oregon, I would have said you’re crazy, but things change,” said Susan Jane Brown, Portland-based staff attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center.

The Malheur Lumber Co. sawmill, the last one still operating in Grant County, will remain open past its planned November shutdown after the Forest Service promised to speed up timber sales and take other steps to increase forest restoration projects.

The unlikely collaboration grew out of a growing sense that healing eastern Oregon’s overgrown forests can’t be done without sawmills, loggers and truck drivers to cut, remove and process logs.

Traditional foes who have fought bitterly in the past over forest management now widely agree that eastern Oregon’s unhealthy forests have become overstocked, bug-infested fuel factories for catastrophic wildfires. The status quo stems from harvest reductions designed to halt clearcutting and restore habitat and wildlife, including the northern spotted owl. Canopy closures now blot out sunlight across much of the region, reducing forage for deer, elk and ranchers’ cattle.

“We are pragmatists when it comes to restoration,” said Sean Stevens, executive director of the environmental group, Oregon Wild. Loss of the 29-year-old Malheur Lumber Co. mill would be “a sad turn of events,” he said.

Grant County has even offered the federal government what may be an unprecedented deal in hopes of keeping the mill open: a proposal to loan money budgeted for county roads to the cash-strapped Forest Service to finance more restoration, thus making logs available for the mill. The Forest Service doesn’t know if that’s feasible.

County landowners, at the same time, are offering to sell more private timber to the mill — trees previously withheld from timber sales because the economic winds have blown prices into a deep hole.

An ongoing shortage of timber from 1.7 million-acre Malheur National Forest continues to plague the mill. The local Forest Service budget has been too small to undertake forest restoration, cutting its supply.

There’s also an interesting sidebar about the changes in employment and volume harvested in Oregon.

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