Mill Closes: “inability to secure a sufficient supply of logs from the surrounding federal forests”

From the Grants Pass (Oregon) Daily Courier.

Anyone know about Rough & Ready Lumber? Is the lack of logs the only factor?

Rough & Ready Lumber closes, lays off 85 workers


CAVE JUNCTION — Rough & Ready Lumber Company announced Wednesday the closure of its lumber mill, a major local employer that recently celebrated its 90th year in business in the Illinois Valley. The business will lay off 85 employees.

In a news release issued Wednesday afternoon, company officials said the decision is the result of the mill’s inability to secure a sufficient supply of logs from the surrounding federal forests.

“We deeply regret having to close the family lumber business that my grandparents founded in 1922,” said Jennifer Phillippi, CEO and co-owner of Rough & Ready.

Link and Jennifer Phillippi and Joe Krauss are the third-generation of family members to operate the mill. Many employees are third-generation, too. Rough & Ready is known for producing high-quality wood products that are used in doors, windows and exposed beams.

Over the years the family continued Rough & Ready’s tradition of reinvesting in the community, including a $6 million biomass cogeneration facility in 2007, Forest Stewardship Council green certification for sustainably produced wood products, and an investment in the region’s first small log mill, according to the company’s news release. Rough & Ready was poised to begin a new $2 million sawmill project in 2014.

“But, we can’t justify the cost with an inadequate, unpredictable log supply supporting only one shift,” Phillippi said. “It’s like sitting in a grocery store not being able to eat while the produce rots around you.”


Once a thriving wood products region, Josephine and Jackson counties in 1975 were home to 22 sawmills, according to the news release. By 2003 six remained, and for the last several years R & R has been the lone sawmill operating in Josephine County.

The company has worked closely with federal and state policy makers since the early 1990s on solutions to the stalemate over federal timber harvests, and the creative ideas and leadership coming from Gov. Kitzhaber and Oregon congressional Reps. Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader have been encouraging, Phillippi said.

“The outlook seemed especially hopeful,” said Phillippi, “when Senator Wyden was appointed chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, but we are disappointed that little has changed. The status quo just isn’t enough to sustain us, even with an improving economy and our customers begging for more of what our employees are so good at making.”

Rough & Ready announced that it would provide mill employees with severance pay and assistance in finding new jobs.

10 thoughts on “Mill Closes: “inability to secure a sufficient supply of logs from the surrounding federal forests””

  1. Clearly, when we’re in the midst of the greatest economic crisis the modern world has ever known and new home starts are a fraction of what they once were, overall lumber consumption is way down, many people still can’t get home loans, 20% of all homeowners find themselves “under-water” with their loan (owing a collective $1 trillion more to the banks than the homes are worth) the ONLY plausible economic reason a timber mill would shut down in an economic reality like this is because the US Taxpayers don’t offer up enough trees for the timber mill to cut.

    Yep, must be…Don’t you know….more loggin’ is always the solution!

    • Matt: I’m familiar with the mill and the family who has operated it during our entire lifetimes. It was the last mill operating in Jackson County. It is also a biomass facility and this closure has a lot more to do with environmental litigation than with housing starts or energy costs.

      The mill is near the Oregon-California border and sits on the edge of millions of feet of rotting timber left over from the Silver Complex and Biscuit wildfires. Instead of using this readily available material (and visually ugly wildfire risk), the government tried to appease local workers with expensive landscaping (“thinning”) projects that were more than 20 miles away. Those with any knowledge of the razor-thin “profits” (via government subsidies) to be made from converting biomass to energy also know that a major cost is trucking distance. Also, expensive thinning project designs.

      The analogy of starving to death in a grocery store while food is rotting on all the shelves is a good one. This shouldn’t still be happening. A real waste and a real shame.

      • you lost me at “rotting” and “ugly”. The effects of the economy, competition with international sources, and the housing crash can’t be dismissed because of ugly rotting forests stand uncut.

        • Roy: Rotting is a biological term; ugly is a personal aesthetic evaluation. The snags are rotting, and I think it looks ugly. No one is dismissing international competition, national economics, or the housing market on unharvested snags — that is your reading, somehow. Letting our resources die and rot in place can’t be helping any of these circumstances, though.

  2. Steve: To answer your question, I think that maybe they were on the wrong side of the border when it came to selling energy from their biomass plant. If I remember correctly, California recently made adjustments to its commitment to “green” energy so that preference was given to facilities within the State’s boundaries. Rough n’ Ready is in Oregon, just north of the stateline. I think this may have had a really adverse impact on their anticipated income projections, along with withdrawn and litigated BLM and USFS timber sales.

  3. Fewer bidders for Federal projects cannot be a good thing. SPI has a near-monopoly where they operate, here in California. We need more demand for non-building wood uses. I think buying products made from thinning projects would be a truly green thing our citizens could do for our forests.

  4. Here’s some more information I got from a friend who used to live in southwestern Oregon and work on forest policy issues:

    “R&R’s owners, Jennifer and Lincoln Phillippi, also own Indian Hill, LLC, the largest private landowner in Josephine County, OR. They also buy logs from private lands in California. They are a primary buyer of federal logs from the Medford and Roseburg BLM Districts and the Rogue-Siskiyou and Six Rivers Forests, but federal clearly is not their only supply. I saw a number of five- and six-log loads getting trucked to their mill last summer while visiting the Illinois Valley. Jennifer is on the Oregon Dept. Forestry Board and the Governor’s O&C Lands Task Force.”

  5. Matt: The problem isn’t that “federal [timber] clearly is not their only supply,” but that “they are a primary buyer of federal logs from the Medford and Roseburg BLM Districts and the Rogue-Siskiyou and Six Rivers Forests.” They are/were the last remaining market in Josephine County.

    It’s an infrastructure problem, among any others. Jennifer is no longer on the Oregon Board of Forestry (where she served with some distinction) and was a real voice of reason on the Governor’s O&C Task Force:

  6. Interesting if they own all that land, but not enough to supply their mill, maybe they over cut it, or they over-built their mill capacity.

    Another possible factor is that the big mills in SW Oregon have expanded their capacity and pushed the little guys like R&R over the edge.

    A final note: If you think about it, salvage logging cannot provide a ~sustainable~ log supply. Most importantly, unlike a green forest, you can store your log supply “on the stump.”


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