Logging and Sawmilling Information for the Western United States 

November 2000 - Volume 25 Number 11


In The News 

Plum Creek Profits Drop 
Forest fires and falling lumber prices have done a job on Plum Creek Timber's third quarter profits. For the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2000, profits dropped 79.4 percent from the same period last year. Although the fires this summer did little damage to Plum Creek's timberlands, temporary restrictions set up by federal officials to combat the fires cut the company's harvest volume by a third. In the Rocky Mountain region alone, Plum Creek's harvest volume fell 40 percent. At the same time, prices for Plum Creek's lumber products dropped 20 percent as new home construction slowed. From February to August, the nation's monthly housing starts fell almost 16 percent. 

Idaho Forest Industries Purchase Closed 
Stimson Lumber Co. of Portland, Ore. and Idaho Forest Industries finalized their sale. Idaho Forest Industries' three North Idaho mills and 89,000 acres of timberland became Stimson property Idaho Forest Industries was a family run operation and employs about 460 people at mills in Coeur d'Alene and Priest River and a forestry office in St. Maries. "The company was a good fit for Stimson, which is also a family run operation," said Dan Dutton, Stimson's CEO. "Stimson plans to operate all three mills." 

ForestExpress Additions 
We reported earlier that GeorgiaPacific Corp., International Paper, Weyerhaeuser Company, and The Mead Corporation were joining together to create ForestExpress, a global ecommerce marketplace dedicated to the forest products industry. Now those companies have added two new partners, Boise Cascade Corporation and Willamette Industries, Inc. As part of the equity partnership, Boise Cascade and Willamette will each have a representative from their respective companies on the ForestExpress Board of Directors. "ForestExpress will offer an expanded reach for buyers and sellers across the forest products marketplace," said George J. Harad, Chairman of the Board and chief executive officer of Boise Cascade. "We feel that ForestExpress provides tremendous resources for businesses to grow and strengthen their business through ecommerce." "Our goal is to simplify and accelerate the adoption of electronic commerce across the industry," said Keith Russell, ForestExpress CEO. 

New Work in Ketchikan 
The southeast town of Ketchikan, Alaska has experienced some hard times, but times are about to change. An old pulp mill that once had a workforce of 500 will soon see life. Old growth trees from the Tongass National Forest will be toppled, peeled and sliced into green veneer, a building product never before made in Alaska. "Gateway Forest Products Inc., a company started by former pulp mill executives, plans to fire up its new veneer plant," said company spokesman Cliff Skillings. "Up to 20 people will be employed initially, and the company hopes to add a second shift by mid December, bringing another 15 or so people onto the payroll, many of them former employees of Ketchikan Pulp Co." Barges will carry veneer to the Seattle area, where it will be dried and manufactured into finished products, including plywood and laminated veneer lumber, an engineered wood product known for its strength and durability. "It'll be an economic boost to the town," Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein said of the veneer plant. 

Activists Sue to Stop National Forest Logging 
Three environmental groups have filed a lawsuit attempting to shut down all logging on 10 national forests in California. The groups allege that the U.S. Forest Service is illegally approving Sierra Nevada timber harvest plans using outdated guidelines for protecting the California spotted owl and the Pacific fisher, a furbearing mammal about the size of a cat which spends much of its life in trees. They want the court to stop the Forest Service from issuing any more timber harvest plans in the Sierra Nevada and to halt existing logging operations until a final environmental impact statement has been approved by the courts. In 1993, when the spotted owl was the center of attention, the Forest Service released interim guidelines to minimize destruction of its habitat. Those guidelines were to have expired in 1995, by which time the agency was to have produced a more protective, long term plan. To date, no such plan exists, although the Forest Service hopes to have one completed by December. "We're working as fast as we can," said spokesman Ken Palmrose. "Most of the forests have land management plans in place that guide their (timber harvest plan) decisions. It is not like there's not something to guide them." 

Shanghai Imports Rise 
Shanghai is reporting a record amount of import timber. The amount of import timber reached 300,000 cubic meters (cm) in the third quarter of this year, 50 percent over the previous quarter according to customs. (The amount in the first three quarters of the year totaled only 615,000 cubic meters.) The Chinese domestic demand for timber is on the rise, creating a growing market for imported timber. In 1998 Shanghai received 750,000 cm, and in 1999 the amount rose to 946,000 cm. Other major imports were veneer and sandwiched boards, which hit 64,000 cubic meters, and boards, which reached 28,000 cubic meters. Currently, China's per capita consumption of timber is only 0.16 cubic meters annually, much less than the world average of 0.65 cubic meters. However, China's national forest protection campaign which started in 1998, and the relaxing of control on imports, have stimulated timber import. 

Tulare County Sues Clinton Administration 
Tulare County, California sued the Clinton administration to block the 328,00acre Sequoia National Monument. The county claims it lost 105 lumber mill jobs and will face other financial hardships. "The county can generate more than $1 million a year from the forest, and we don't know how much we will lose," county Supervisor Steven Worthley said. "We have not been allowed meaningful input in the process." How U.S. Forest Service officials plan to respond to the lawsuit is still unknown. President Clinton designated the monument in April within the 1.2 million acre Sequoia National Forest to protect about half of the 75 remaining giant sequoia groves in the Sierra. By May, Sequoia Forest Industries announced the closure of its 50yearold Dinuba mill, blaming the future shutdown of commercial logging on the new monument. Lawyer Gary Stevens, who represents the county and other interest groups, said the monument raised issues that differ from the other monuments. "The Giant Sequoia proclamation alleges no immediate threat," said Stevens. "There's no claim that logging poses any threat whatsoever. Why was this monument rushed into existence? I suggest it is part of the Clinton legacy." U.S. Forest Service officials have three years to draw up a management plan incorporating the restrictions. During that time Federal officials said commercial logging could continue, as well as public access for recreational uses. 

Skamania Finally Sees Dollars 
A rural aid bill President Clinton signed into law in early November will pump an additional $4.3 million annually into Washington, Skamania County schools, public services and economic development over the next six years. The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Development Act, long awaited by officials in timber dependent communities, will provide an additional $115 million to Northwest counties with national forests. Twenty-seven Washington counties will share $18 million in new dollars, for a total of $43.8 million in federal aid. Skamania County, with 78 percent of its land base in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, will receive a total of $10.5 million, the most of any Washington county. "In all, the county will pocket an extra $1.5 million annually," said county administrator Marilyn Breckel. The money is intended to compensate counties for lost federal timber payments since the early 1990s, when logging levels plummeted on national forests to protect habitat for the northern spotted owl. 

Timber Report Bright 
The Japanese housing industry is heating up and that's good news for Alaska according to a new report commissioned by the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The report, by the Center for International Trade in Forest Products at the Univ. of Washington, says revisions to Japan's national building code, combined with shifts in consumer preferences and building styles, have opened a door for products made from Alaska's Sitka spruce, western hemlock and red and yellow cedar. "With all this shakeup, it presents opportunities for Alaska manufacturers," said Michael Johnson, state trade specialist. "We have what they want." Japan is already Alaska's major export market. They buy about 70 percent of lumber products produced in the state and nearly all of Alaska old growth spruce logs and cants. Alaska mills will still have to confront familiar obstacles, including the distance from foreign markets and the high cost and politics of logging in a federally owned rainforest. "They're going to have a tough go at it. They're making changes, but it's slow," said Mike McGuigan, a lumber inspector in Eagle River. 

DNR Must Pay Timber Firm 
A recent jury decision in Washington State could threaten the state's ability to regulate logging on private timberlands as a way to protect the spotted owl. "It seems to call into question how the state can regulate on private land," says Kaleen Cottingham, state Deputy Commissioner of Public Lands. "We're very concerned." The Yakima county jury decided that the state DNR must pay $2.25 million to an eastern Washington timber firm that lost logging rights on a 232acre parcel because of habitat preservation. They determined that the state's restrictions denied the timber firm "all economically viable use" of the property. In short, the land was taken without just compensation. "This ruling gives hope to any landowner who has had their property restricted due to wildlife habitat, open space and scenic beauty," said Michael Neff, a Portland attorney for the timber firm. "I hope it would mean that if the state wants to preserve a private owner's property for owl habitat, that they simply buy it rather than sticking the owner with the loss." State officials are awaiting the order to see what effect it may have. "If it's a wide ranging order, it might not only impact the spotted owls but how the state regulates in regard to salmon and other species," says Cottingham. An appeal is expected. 

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