Nov Dec, 2002





In The News

First Sale in Two Years
After two years with no timber sales, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest sold 6.83 million board feet of timber in October. Three separate parcels sold for a total of $430,000. Two previous auctions, just weeks before, drew no bids, and that was attributed to the depressed market. The buyer, John Hedlund, is gambling that the market won’t fall any farther before he’s able to log next spring and summer. Demonstrations have been a common part of auctions and for that reason two law enforcement officers stood by. This time environmentalists raised no complaints, and even openly supported one of the sales.

GP Delays Breakup
Georgia-Pacific Corporation stated this fall that it will "reluctantly" postpone its plan to divide its consumer products division and building materials division into two separate companies. The delay is due to unfavorable conditions in both financial markets and in markets for its building materials. "Although we are committed to our planned separation, we have reluctantly concluded that now is not the right time to execute the transactions," stated Chairman and CEO Pete Correll. He indicated GP would monitor business and market conditions "in the coming months" to find a more favorable opportunity.

LP Retains Mills
LP has announced that it will be hanging onto eight of its 12 sawmills previously announced for sale. The company says they are keeping the mills because the bids received were "below the value of these excellent facilities." However, its remaining four lumber mills will proceed to sale.

Husqvarna Sponsors Christmas Tree
Husqvarna is the official sponsor of the 2002 Capitol Holiday Tree, which will adorn Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. this holiday season. For the third consecutive year, Husqvarna will be providing two professional grade chainsaws for the tree cutting ceremony, as well as head-to-toe safety gear for personnel performing the tree felling. This year’s tree was cut in the Umpqua National Forest near Roseburg, Ore., and carried crosscountry via truck to Washington, D.C. for the official lighting ceremony, on December 11. "The Capitol Holiday Tree is a wonderful symbol of a festive, joyous time for our nation," said David Zerfoss, president of Husqvarna. "We are pleased to continue our involvement in this outstanding program."

Weyerhaeuser Slims Down
Weyerhaeuser made some sizeable cutbacks this fall with more to come. Thirty-four workers were cut from its sawmill in Longview, Wash., as well as 20 workers at its Raymond, Wash. sawmill. The company also announced plans to close its Enumclaw, Wash. sawmill and a finishing facility in Snoqualmie, Wash. in the first quarter of 2003. Other cuts include the sale of 115,000 acres of timber to Hancock Timber Resource Group, an international timber investment and management organization based in Boston, for approximately $211 million, and the layoff of 750 employees from Weyerhaeuser’s corporate headquarters. These cost-saving changes come in response to a heavy debt load after the acquisition of Willamette earlier this year.

Speeding Up Tongass Implementation
The Juneau Empire reported that U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski, an Alaskan Republican, said he was exploring language to speed up the execution of the Tongass Land Management Plan in order to give the timber industry in the southeast some certainty. "It took 13 years and $12 million to finish the TLMP, heralded as the most comprehensive forest plan ever conducted," says Murkowski. "If something isn’t done, it will be time to update the forest plan before it is even implemented." Both the timber industry and environmental groups have been defending and criticizing the plan since it was created in 1997.

Bush Seeks Relaxed Rules
In late October, the Bush administration announced it would seek public comment on a plan to relax environmental rules that require detailed surveys for forest life before the logging of federal lands in the Pacific Northwest. The plan would be to discontinue the "survey and manage" requirements currently part of the Northwest Forest Plan. This change is part of a proposed lawsuit settlement — a suit brought on by the Douglas Timber Operators and the American Forest Resource Council, challenging the survey rules which can take years to complete. Although some environmentalists have claimed this is just another way to make it easier to log old growth trees, Forest Service spokesman Rex Holloway has tried to reassure the public that the administration is not trying to weaken environmental rules.

Record Burns
This year’s fire season was a record-breaker — the second worst in the last 50 years, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. As of October 11, 68,230 wildfires had burned 6.7 million acres. This figure is nearly double the 10-year average.

Housing Starts Up
U.S. housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.84 million units in September, up 13.3 percent from the previous month. Reversing three consecutive monthly declines, starts reached a 16-year high in September. Single-family units jumped 18.2 percent, and permits rose 3.7 percent. The West showed the most strength.

Working-Forest Conservation Easement
This past November, the Potlatch Corporation announced that it had signed an agreement with the Trust for Public Land. Potlatch would dedicate some portion of its 670,000 Idaho forestland holdings with a "working-forest conservation easement," to provide an estimated $40 million revenue to Potlatch while guaranteeing the lands would be preserved from development.

No to Off-road Machinery Excise Tax
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) joined forces with the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA) to file joint comments to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) opposing a recently proposed regulation that would extend highway vehicle excise taxes to off-road machinery. In addition to industry opposition, the excise tax proposal is drawing criticism from Capitol Hill. The IRS excise tax proposal would subject certain machinery to motor vehicle taxes on fuel, tires, truck and trailer purchases as well as annual heavy vehicle taxes. This equipment was previously exempt as it uses the highway only for transportation to and from jobsites. Over 50 members of the House of Representatives and leaders of the Senate Finance Committee have written the IRS to express their opposition to these new taxes.

Regulation Overhaul
The U.S. Forest Service announced a major overhaul of regulations for executing the National Forest Management Act. The Administration says that the changes eliminate duplicate or unnecessary environmental review and will allow forest supervisors more independent discretion in local project implementation, and restrict the forms in which public comment on individual projects may be submitted. A portion of the proposed regulations would require that any public comment on project-level decisions cite specific laws, regulations, or policies. The new regulations would also eliminate comments submitted by such means as mass postcards, e-mails, or similar form mailings. While the forest industry sees this as a step toward better stewardship, hopefully reducing administrative costs and time in approving management projects, environmentalists are concerned the new rules will increase logging. A 90-day public comment period on the regulations is now underway, and the green establishment has already vowed to litigate their adoption at the conclusion of that review.


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