Biden to Bail Out South Dakota Sawmills with California Logs

From an E&E News article (behind paywall) today: “The Forest Service is working out the final details of a plan to keep South Dakota timber mills open by supplying logs from other areas, agency Chief Randy Moore said.” The “other areas” may include California, which is concurrently proposing the largest logging projects in state history.

Back in the good old days, the Forest Service sold timber to the highest bidder. Exceptions to that rule included a small handful of Sustained Yield Units. These were anti-competitive, protectionist measures designed to ensure that timber was milled locally. Now the Forest Service wants to do precisely the opposite — require that timber be milled far distant from the area in which it grows.

How many tax dollars will be spent on this boondoggle? This administration won’t care; in fact, I doubt it even asked the question. With hundreds of millions sloshing around in the FS’s budget accounts there’s enough to finance any crazy idea.

28 thoughts on “Biden to Bail Out South Dakota Sawmills with California Logs”

  1. Andy, I’m sure you remember the logs imported in the 1990s from Chile and New Zealand in an effort to keep Oregon mills running. That’s a longer haul than here to ND. This High Country News article, “Foreign forests keep mills alive,” explains….

    • Yes, indeed, I do remember.

      One big difference. The Oregon mills paid for those foreign logs all by themselves. No different than a Louisiana petroleum refinery importing Saudi oil to manufacture into gasoline.

      In contrast, the U.S. Forest Service is going to use your tax dollars to ship out-of-state logs to South Dakota mills. It’s a scheme that Progressive-era leader Gifford Pinchot would have loved.

        • “What else to do with the logs?” Oh, gosh, I suppose the FS could just leave them be. You believe that means they will “burn in a wildfire.” Maybe so, probably not. But, so what if they do? Will the sky fall? Will the Earth stop rotating?

          How much are YOU willing to pay to move logs from California to South Dakota? Your contribution, made through the National Forest Foundation, is tax deductible!

          At the heart of your rhetorical questions is the forester’s religion that wood has infinite value and should never be “wasted.” Although that religion was abandoned long ago by the timber industry, it lives on in government land agencies (where cost is no object since someone else always pays the bill) and affiliated NGOs.

      • You certainly have come a long way since your time when you were quoted in The Final Forest.
        By this logic, we should simply privative all National Forests. Only makes sense, right?

      • Andy, I didn’t think that it was clear from the article exactly how the FS was going to “help”.. did you look more deeply into it?

        • Sharon, I have tried to find out more of the specifics of this pilot project, to no avail. I am willing look at it objectively if we are provided with the specifics. It is possible that it could be a good thing, I just don’t know. I would like to know how the logging in CA is being accomplished with no purchaser? Is it being done under a service contract? Will Neiman Enterprises pay for the logs? Is the FS going to subsidize the rail transport of the logs to SD? What will be the cost of this project to the FS? Where in the FS budget is the funding coming from? How long do they anticipate this pilot project to last? What happens when others want a deal like this also? Is this the best way for the FS to spend its dollars?

      • Too much big government involvement, at tax payers expense.. it is no longer about supply and demand and local areas being sustainable..
        it is just that the gov never or hardly ever does anything well.

  2. Black Hills can’t sustain over +|- 80,000 ccf/ year. Going to be along haul; VSS almost all in the non-commercial range for logs. Long haul in this reference is more related to time than distance! Thirty + years of supporting those mills? Doubtful it lasts very long….

  3. I love watching the ambitions of capitalism collapse under the own weight of its uncoordinated stupidity. I wonder if the’re going to tap into the “strategic oil reserve” to offer free diesel to all the log trucks driving California’s fire killed pecker poles to Idaho? Because if they don’t pay to cover the costs of the oil industry’s unprecedented price gouging that’s bleeding out our economy right now the fuel cost to haul those loads that far is nothing the sawmills can afford to pay.

    Perhaps the only idea dumber than this right now is the USFS proposing a single EA to cover all environmental analysis of the largest ever timber sale in history in California via salvage logging clearcuts along 5,700 miles of mostly unused and unneeded spur roads:

    I guess USFS in California didn’t yet read what about what happened to them in Western Oregon when they failed in court to get away with the exact same criminal scam and had to start the whole planning process all over again?

    • Did you donate to all those ENGOs Deane?
      Parroting their talking points for free?
      Where is the science? (not your cherry picked 3 author science).
      Also, does someone in WA/OR really deserve a say in what happens in the forests and recreational opps of those in CA?

      Again, W OR isn’t CA Federal Ground, CA private isn’t US Federal Ground, but yall love mixing those, and others, up.

  4. Well now, the extremes the FS and others will go to keep mills running!
    Are they going to charter special FedEx planes so the logs can go “Next Day” delivery?
    Given the amount of fuel that will be used to transport these logs they sure as heck can’t be sold as environmentally friendly lumber! lol
    This is unbelievable!

  5. To call this unbelievable is somewhat of an understatement. When I was an employed FS employee I would have never dreamt something like this would take place. Apparently, R5 has a bunch of decked logs for which there is no purchaser. The only way this could happen is that the FS paid loggers to cut these logs under a service contract. Now, with this “pilot project” they are going to somehow either sell at a very low price or give them to one business, Neiman Enterprises. And then the FS is going to subsidize the transport of these logs via rail to South Dakota? And for how long? What happens if some other sawmill business says, “gee, I would also like a sweetheart deal like that!” What then? All this to ensure that a sawmill does not go out of business because the timber industry built its business largely around FS timber, and then has done everything possible to ensure that it has continued to overcut the Forest for a decade or more? Have the inmates taken over the asylum? If the FS wants to blow taxpayer dollars, they should pay Neiman to move his mill to California. It would be money better spent.

  6. Of course, they could do like they have done in the past. Export the Federal logs. There is solid reasoning and precedent for offering those unprocessed logs to the highest bidders. I also witnessed cull logs being shipped from the LA Basin to central and northern California mills.

    On the other hand, in the LA Basin, there were ‘collection points’ for disposal of burnable debris.

    Leaving dead trees standing next to roads isn’t logical, practical or desirable. There are multiple techniques for getting rid of the material, merchantable, or not.

    I think it is amusing that South Dakota will be getting logs of varying lengths and diameters. They are more used to almost identical logs, from their love of even-aged management. This ‘event’ may convince the timber industry to change their minds on that.

    • The industry will not invest in milling capacity to cut logs that are vulnerable to being identified as “old growth.” Establish a measurement in law that delineates “Old growth” and live with it. As I write, small woodland owners in the South have to sell logs OVER 20” in diameter anywhere on that log or any log with either end sawn with a hand held chainsaw to pulp mills by the ton. Unlikely they get $700 for the legal highway load of pulp logs. Cannot pay the state and local taxes with the revenue, let alone pay for logging or replanting. Canfor and Interfor have built tight tolerance super modern mills with rigorous mechanical logging requirements for purchased logs. Processors and hot saws cut and bunch trees to be computer controlled processing machine cut to log lengths. Most machinery is built in Europe. Supply chain is a year out for a sold machine to be in customer hands. Right now, lumber industry is in retreat as markets have cooled to eat up existing yard inventories.

      • In log form, you get what you get. Take them, or leave them. I think of it as a sort of a period of addiction… to even-aged management. It is inevitable that the Black Hill NF will go to that more ‘natural’ way, exclusively. Time to wean the industry off of even-aged management, and all of the bad habits associated with it. Painful, yes, but it is the right thing to do.

  7. Logs by rail? $6 diesel burned to to haul coals to Newcastle. Right now Joe’s best economic period in history has lumber prices 120% lower than they were in March. Summer. Building time. But the few who can AFFORD a house have one. We have several BILLION board feet of logs alive with buzzard beetles eating logs from the inside out. Trees killed Labor Day 2020 on USFS and Bur Land Management owned land unable to be sold before bugs infected them because Congress has created an unworkable Federal land management system that keeps thousands of lawyers in bad suits.
    But, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Drain the CA reservoirs to irrigate and raise corn to ship to Nebraska to make fouling ethanol.

    A Nation losing its mind is fodder for the five political cartoonists still employed by a daily newspaper. Any more diverse, unworkable idiotic ideas? The thousands of pundits and cartoonists need work, too.

    • Lumber isn’t 120% cheaper here in Ca. Cedar is going for 8 1/2 $ a bf. Where do you get your info?Im located in the Dixie fire area,3towns burned up in that fire. I don’t see any comments where we are being compensated for what we lost.People can’t afford to build much less make through the permit process.As usual nobody gives a shit.

  8. I wish the FS in Oregon would sell some more burnt log roadside salvage sales for the local mills. The sky wouldn’t fall if that happened either, but it probably makes to much sense.

  9. Neiman purchased Montrose Forest Products in Colorado in 2012 but in 2018 after the Trump Organization gutted the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Neiman shipped twelve loads of timber from the San Juan National Forest to mills in South Dakota. Neiman wants to log 20 million board feet of ponderosa pine per year in Colorado for the next 20 years.

    So, as expected, Hulett, Wyoming-based Neiman Enterprises could enjoy the fruits of socialism as the two Republican US Senators introduce a bill to inject taxpayer dollars into the Black Hills timber monopoly.

  10. I think every comment here missed the point. The real debate is: should US residents be forced to consume less timber and therefore place less demand on our nation’s forests, or should we be allowed to continue to consume at our current (or at a growing) rate to accomodate the housing stock shortage that everyone is talking about and, in order to do so, subsidize the timber industry so that we can continue to have access to domestic supplies of timber?

    The alternative, of course, is that we are allowed to continue our consumption patterns and the timber comes from Canada, or worse, from Chile or New Zealand and export all the (environmental) costs and reap the benefits.

    It sure sounds like everyone on this thread is writing from their comfortable home, built of wood, which they own, while the rest of us will spend most of our working years trying to save enough money to put a downpayment on a home of our own that will likely not be paid off before we die. Good luck, kids.


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