State, Feds Partner On Proposed Seeley Lake Logging Projects

A Good Neighbor Authority story from Montana Public Radio.

The Lolo National Forest wants to partner with the State of Montana on a pair of so-called Good Neighbor Authority projects to log about 5,000 acres of Forest Service land near Seeley Lake.

A photo with the article shows a Pyramid Mountain Lumber billboard that reads, Now Hiring. Starting wage $16.08.

18 thoughts on “State, Feds Partner On Proposed Seeley Lake Logging Projects”

  1. “A photo with the article shows a Pyramid Mountain Lumber billboard that reads, Now Hiring. Starting wage $16.08.”

    Howdy Steve: That photo was from last fall. There was an article in the newspaper just last week that about 100 miles up the road from Pyramid Mountain Lumber, the Stoltze Lumber company was cutting back its shifts from an 80-hour production cycle to a 50-hour production cycle, approximately a 40% reduction in hours.

    The reason? According to Paul McKenzie “It’s purely market driven.” Apparently demand for lumber across the country is down. Also, news in the last week out of Canada is that major timber giants, like Canfor, are also cutting back hours and production at their lumber mills because of soft lumber markets.

    So, I highly doubt that given these economic realities that Pyramid Mountain Lumber is hiring new employees.

    Also, a wage of $16.08 comes to about $33,000 a year. Could you or your family live off of that wage Steve?

    • Matthew, The Canadian curtailments are partly market driven, partly driven by timber supply issues. In any case, with Canadian imports down, more US mills will pick up much of the slack. $33K per year wouldn’t go far in Portland or Seattle, but in Seeley? I don’t know. For a young person starting out, it might be OK.

      • Hi Steve, I also read that about the Canadian curtailments. I can think of very few examples of where the timber industry didn’t complain about supply of trees. Seems to me the timber industry loves lots of trees supplied at the lowest price possible.

        Anyway, back in Montana, here’s what Stoltze Lumber said about the “purely market driven” reason they cut back their production hours approximately 40% this month. Looks like supply isn’t an issue at all.

        By the way, this article talks about housing starts in the USA. While it mentions that April’s housing starts of 1.235 million were down about 5% from the previous year, everyone should remember that 1.235 million housing starts is still down about 1 MILLION housing starts each and every month from the pre-2008 Housing Bubble Burst, which was a big reason the entire US and global economy collapsed.

  2. For whatever it’s worth, here’s an image of the general area of these two new proposed “fast-track” timber sales.

    As you can clearly see, “the stewardship company [AKA Pyramid Mountain Lumber], the state of Montana and the U.S. Forest Service have been engaged in some dynamite #SharedStewardship of this corner of Montana. The National Forest lands could really benefit from another 1,200 logging trucks full of trees hauled out of the forest, don’t you think?

    “Like a good neighbor…clearcuts and roads are there.”

  3. Small point but it always bothers me and I was careful while working for USFS to NOT say “Forest Service” land because it is NOT FS land.
    It’s National Forest land managed by USFS for the public.
    Owned by the public and not the agency.

  4. “You gotta look at the trees as dollar bills out there.” Quinn Carver, Seeley Lake District Ranger.
    Maybe that’s what got him his new job.

    • If accurate, Jon, there is our proof that the Forest Service has not evolved much since the Reagan Administration.

  5. I learned how to grow trees as a crop but I’m glad that during my 10 years in the FS I never drank the timber Koolaid! Apparently it’s an internal cultural thing (“trees as dollar bills”) that keeps that mentality alive. I hope that not many of the forestry schools are still preaching that attitude.
    At least there are more women in the agency and some non-foresters are now district rangers (nearly unthinkable in the early ’80’s).

    • There is nothing wrong with thinking of “trees as dollar bills” if other resources and values are also in the mix. In a stewardship contract, for example, the dollar bills are crucial to replacing culverts and thinning a dense plantation, for example. Even with a clearcut, there’s nothing wrong in thinking of the trees as dollar bills that make both income and allow for replanting and maintenance. In other words, it takes dollar bills to practice sustainable forestry.

  6. It’s funny, but early in my FS career, we were told explicitly that we were NOT to talk about timber sales being done so they could generate KV revenue to do “sale area improvement” work. That was not the objective – we were implementing the land management plans. Somewhere in the 90s that changed – a lot of timber harvest these days (i.e. stewardship sales, even regular timber sales with KV collections) is being done to generate additional funding. This seems to have coincided with decreases in the FS budget and the agency desiring to generate more funding to make up the difference. To me, it’s rather telling when someone thinks we are doing timber sales to generate funds (i.e. seeing the trees as dollar bills). We are supposed to be implementing the land management plans – and one of several objectives in the land management plans is to produce timber. There are many other objectives as well. Once the FS starts just looking at timber sales as a way to generate money, it’s a slippery slope to a once-again corrupt system.

    • Plus, by focusing on the monetary value of timber being cut distracts from achieving desirable outcomes on the landscape. Seems that this path has been well traveled before.

    • All, I wouldn’t have used that exact language, despite the decade, or whether I was working in timber or planning. I can’t see one Ranger’s remarks as necessarily an indicator of national policy. Here are the ones I’ve heard through my career:

      (1) cutting trees and selling them is OK, after all it’s in MUSYA. (A) People in this country use the wood and it’s better than importing it, because the jobs and taxes stay here., plus there is less transportation which is probably good for carbon.
      (2) (the first person I ever heard say this was a fellow named Bill Sexton from Montana., it was quite a surprise). It is OK to cut trees if we are “restoring” a landscape to some prior conditions. And if we cut them (A) follows, plus it helps to cover restoration costs.
      (3) cutting trees for fuel treatment is OK. If we cut them, (A) follows, plus it helps to cover fuel treatment costs.

      The only NEPA docs that had a purpose and need solely focused on strictly economic benefits have been salvage projects. But clearly I have not seen them all.

  7. A perverse outcome of not seeing the forest for the dollar bills is that NEPA documents have started saying that cutting down trees is beneficial for the environment because it produces funding to replace culverts and the like. That may not be a defensible effects analysis.

    • A perverse outcome is a possibility in some projects, but if thinning or other harvesting is an appropriate treatment, and some or all of the revenue goes toward ecological restoration, that may be entirely defensible.


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