Rim Fire trees sailing to China, domestic mills “pretty much at capacity”

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From Reed Fujii, staff writer with the The Record, Stockton, California:

If there’s a silver lining to last year’s Rim Fire, California’s third-largest recorded wildfire, scorching more than 257,000 acres around and in Yosemite National Park, it may be in the piles of logs now being stacked up at the Port of Stockton.

MDI Forest Products, an Oakland-based timber and lumber export company, is staging the logs at the port for shipment to Far East lumber mills.

The logs will be stripped of bark, then loaded into shipping containers and moved via the port’s Marine Highway barges to Oakland and from there on to China, primarily, and perhaps Japan and Korea, said Gary Liu, MDI chief executive and managing partner.

Fire-damaged or weakened trees need to be salvaged quickly, before insects or diseases further reduce their value.

“The Rim fire is bringing a lot of private timber onto the market,” Liu said.

And there is demand for logs from Asian lumber mills.

“There just hasn’t been an alternative,” he said Monday. “The domestic mills are pretty much at capacity.”

Read the entire story here.

Here’s some more posts about the Rim Fire from the NCFP blog archives.

NOTE: Since Gil DeHuff has previously questioned my attempts to research, obtain and use links to provide NCFP readers with additional context and information about frequent topics on this blog, I’d like to point out that the links to more posts about the Rim Fire were obtained by simply typing in the words “Rim Fire” to the search box on the homepage of this blog. Therefore, any credit or conspiracy or fault as to what’s included – or not included – in the archives should be directed towards the creator of WordPress’ search engine program. Thank you.


8 thoughts on “Rim Fire trees sailing to China, domestic mills “pretty much at capacity””

  1. The export market option is working just like it should. It is giving private timberland owners a market for logs that are fragile and damaged by fire with a very short time period in which they are free of insects and fungus, at a time when existing capacity to convert is brim full with logs. Thus prices will be down, and possibly no markets for private logs from timberland not connected to existing mill capacity. The safety valve is export. It is needed and valuable. Export pays taxes and wages, as opposed to the NGOs existing on tax forgiven money from trusts, foundations, and charitable giving. And we know the “green” NGOs would stop log export if they could.

    The money gained from selling logs provides funds for restoration and recovery of fire damaged lands and timber resources. Logs in Asia can’t re-burn here. If the only available market is export, so much the better that export is there as an option. It means that domestic processing and markets are vigorous. At least some money is gained from the loss of live trees and future livelihoods to fire. Markets, if allowed to work, do provide solutions that are real and timely. There is going to be a known result, and that is there will be a big void in private timber for future cutting due to the Rim Fire. The question has to be not “why export” but how to keep mills and jobs while the new forests are growing back. The problems will be long term and down the road. For now, value capture is most important because value is fast declining and funds for restoration are dear and few.

  2. Barking the logs prior to export is a common practice. It almost eliminates shipboard mess. Barking reduces the export of insect pests. It reduces weight. It makes it easier to fumigate if necessary. And, the bark stays in California, to be used as mulch to reduce water loss for landscaping plants. Or it can be used to amend planting materials for nursery stock.

  3. I question the claim that mills are at capacity. Unlike most parts of California, there are two local mills here. SPI has both a big log mill and a state of the art small log mill. “Capacity” comes in different forms. Log yards should be pretty open during this month, in a normal year. I wonder if either mill has three shifts going, too. Personally, I think SPI is taking advantage of good log prices, while sending a measured amount to their mills, too. Clearly, their big log mill cannot be “at capacity”, since most of the big trees were on Federal lands. I haven’t heard much about injunctions yet but, I do expect that they will come. The Forest Service is salvaging on less than 30,000 acres, most of it being 40 year old plantations.

    • larry, in my experience SPI has large logs on their holdings, as I worked logging them for 10 years. It has been 6 years though so it could be changing, but given the acres they control I’d bet they still have some larger diameter timber.

      • Most of SPI’s land has trees between 10″ and 20″ dbh. Yes, they still have large trees on their holdings but, some of that is in helicopter and cable ground. For them, there is still a “log gap” looming, if they don’t get some 20-30″ dbh trees from the Forest Service. A stark reality for them is that they have plenty of their own smaller trees to cut, on their own lands, without having to bid on similar Forest Service trees. If small trees are all that the Forest Service will sell, SPI won’t be buying many of them, and their monopoly will ensure that no one else will bid on Sierra Nevada National Forest timber sales. SPI has to get creative when trying to keep their large log mills solvent. Their large log Standard mill, near Sonora, serves a very large area, including three National Forests. I doubt that mill could survive without some Forest Service logs.

  4. If anyone feels so inclined, here’s MDI Forest Products website, which includes an office phone number.

    Perhaps when Gary Liu, MDI chief executive and managing partner stated, “The domestic mills are pretty much at capacity,” he was referring to capacity in relation to current demand and other economic factors, and not necessarily total capacity in terms of the mills themselves.

    Below is info about the company directly from their website.

    Headquartered in Oakland, California, MDI Forest Products started in the wood products export business in the mid 2000’s when we focused primarily in hardwood species from the Appalachian states. Species such as red oak, white oak, hard maple, ash, cherry, and walnut became very popular amongst the overseas furniture and flooring industries.

    Since 2010 and coupled with the resurgences of U.S. West Coast conifer log and lumber demand from the Far East, primarily from China’s construction industry, we shifted our focus to sourcing conifer logs in California. We currently operate 4 log sort yards in California; Port of Oakland, Willits California, McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, & Port of Stockton, where we purchase logs on a delivered, on-board truck, and stumpage basis. Douglas-Fir, White-fir, Ponderosa Pine, Sugar Pine, & Sitka Spruce are the typical spices we procure from the timberlands of California.

    With in-house logistics and documentations teams, we have the ability to charter break bulk vessels as well as conduct container shipments in nearly all port pairs between North America and Asia.

    • Hmmmm! Hey, Bob, maybe add these guys to the funding list!

      Back in the early 90’s, there was a big pulpwood log yard at the Port of Sacramento. I went there for a training session on log scaling, to enhance our Harvest Inspector abilities, working on all those salvage sales. There were Asian representatives who were selecting individual logs for export. It was fun to look at the wide variety of species that ended up there. Loggers were collecting logs from old cull decks, to haul down to the Port. Often, the trucks would have to make the trip not up to weight, due to height limitations. (Yes, one log truck got stuck under a prominent overpass in Placerville.)

    • What’s your point, they deal in a commodity that is renewable resource?. Since USFS and state bans on log exports have driven prices up on private timber they are taking advantage of a market opportunity. Just because you don’t like timber harvesting doesn’t change the dynamic.


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