In the News
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Southern California Fires
Firefighters in Southern California battled stubborn wildfires. The fires covered 200,000 hectares and destroyed at least 1,800 homes. To add to the devastation, authorities say arsonists are behind at least two fires.                       

According to reports, a small fire near San Diego and the blaze that destroyed 14 homes in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, were both set by arsonists. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says the people responsible will be found, “. . . we will arrest them and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.” Authorities are currently following hundreds of leads.                       

As of November 1, the number of deaths resulting from the fires stood at seven. Many homeowners had returned to their communities to determine the damage to their homes and property in order to file claims. Mr. Schwarzenegger announced additional grants of up to $10,000 for those affected by the fires. He gave a strong warning to those who might cheat homeowners. “If anyone tries to exploit this tragedy, I will make sure that the state of California will do anything possible to see that you will pay for the rest of your life.”

Laverty Named Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks
The U.S. Senate has confirmed Lyle Laverty as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. Laverty has served as Director of Colorado Parks since 2001, leading a strategic planning effort to improve stewardship of state parks. During his tenure, Colorado opened two new state parks and began planning two others. He implemented a $40 million cost-share project with the Army Corps of Engineers that rehabilitated three state parks. Prior to this position, Laverty had a long career as a Forest Service manager, rising to the level of Regional Forester of the Rocky Mountain Region, and then Associate Deputy Chief of the agency.

Weyerhaeuser Turning to Real Estate
The residential community called Skyline Ridge Forest Reserve, near the Cowlitz River, is one of Weyerhaeuser’s new conversions — turning timberland into homesites. At Skyline, the lots range from 5 to 22 acres, and they are selling fast. The company says it’s proving more profitable to sell the land than to grow timber.                       

“Our buyers are a combination of baby boomers near retirement looking for a site for their dream home, and people looking to invest in property,” said Brad Johnson, forest reserve and marketing manager for Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Development Co. “On average, people usually take five to six years to build their home.”                       

Weyerhaeuser began turning tree farms on the edge of its timberland into housing communities about 5 years ago. The land is chosen based on its proximity to urban areas and that the land is valued higher for homesteads than timber.                       

State Lands Commissioner, Doug Sutherland, says he understands why companies such as Weyerhaeuser are selling land for home development. “I can buy an acre of timberlands for between $750 and $1,500. But timberlands being sold as residential lands cost $15,000 an acre. It’s a no-brainer if you can get someone to buy it.”

Pope & Talbot Seeking Bankruptcy Protection
On October 29, Pope & Talbot, an Oregon-based forestry company, filed for Canadian bankruptcy protection. The company, which has 80 percent of its operations in Canada, has struggled to meet creditors’ demands. The company filed with the hopes of having a chance to reorganize. “The current market conditions in this type of business are not very favorable right now, so this step was somewhat needed and somewhat forced by the market we are in,” said Pope & Talbot spokesman Mark Rossolo.                       

The company says that they do not anticipate any layoffs due to the filing.

Sierra Acres Go Up for Sale
In November, nearly 5,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada were auctioned by Sierra Pacific Industries.                       

Among the acres auctioned is a 338- acre tract of Nevada County land along the upper reaches of the South Yuba River. Other parcels are located near the Feather River north of Sierra Valley. The company said it chose these parcels because they didn’t fit into its future plans. “We have a series of these properties that are isolated,” said company spokesman Mark Pawlicki. “They don’t sit near our mills.”