In the News

Industry Teams up with Colleges to Train Idaho Sawmill Workers

Every hour, Idaho Forest Group’s Chilco Mill — north of Coeur d’Alene — produces enough lumber to frame six to eight houses.

The Spokesman-Review reported that although skilled-labor jobs pay between $25 and $34 per hour, plus benefits, Idaho Forest Group has difficulty recruiting qualified candidates for the positions.

Faced with labor shortages, the company has teamed up with North Idaho College, Lewis-Clark State College, and other wood products manufacturers to train 200 sawmill workers over the next two years.

“When people think of sawmills, they think of the sawmills of yesterday, when a lot of sweat and blood was required to make each board,” said Tommy Groff, maintenance manager for Idaho Forest Group. However, “very few of our 230 employees ever touch a board.”

As mills have become more automated, they employ fewer workers, but those workers are highly trained.

The Idaho Department of Labor is putting up $483,000 in grant money for the training. Another $142,000 will come from cash and in-kind donations from mill operators. Other contributors joining Idaho Forest Group are Potlatch Corp., Stimson Lumber Co., Plummer Forest Products, and Empire Lumber Co.

“It’s making a difference,” said Scott Sheppard, Stimson Lumber’s director of manufacturing.

Upper Wenatchee Pilot Project

Earlier this year, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest was awarded $1.6 million from the Washington D.C. office in the form of supplemental hazardous fuels funding from the Wildfire Hazardous Fuels Program. The funds will be used to implement the Pilot Proposal for Fire Resiliency in Chelan County, which includes the Upper Wenatchee Pilot Project. A breakdown of the funding includes

  • Upper Wenatchee Pilot - $1,045,000
  • Stemilt (Chelan County land) and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lands to do commercial thinning and prescribed fire implementation - $385,000
  • TREX Program for training prescribed fire personnel - $50,000
  • Lake Wenatchee Fire Adapted Community work - $50,000
  • Mission Creek prescribed fire implemented by Forest Service - $70,000

The Okanogan-Wenatchee is currently analyzing two subwatersheds in the Lake Wenatchee area for treatment — the Lower Chiwawa and Big Meadow areas, which total 36,000 acres. The additional Upper Wenatchee Pilot dollars will allow the Forest Service to add two subwatersheds to the project area — Lake Wenatchee and Beaver Creek, which total 40,000 acres. The four drainages total 76,000 acres and make up the Upper Wenatchee Pilot. By combining all four subwatersheds, it is believed that the forest will be able to initiate implementation of ecological restoration projects within two to three years, instead of the several years it would have taken to analyze and issue a decision for treatments within the 76,000-acre landscape.

The Okanogan-Wenatchee is planning to complete the environmental assessment for the Upper Wenatchee Pilot by the summer of 2019 with projects coming out in fiscal year 2020.

The American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) anticipates that this 76,000-acre planning area that focuses on reducing fuel loads in the Lake Wenatchee area will yield several projects that will help provide the needed raw material for their members. The Okanogan-Wenatchee has struggled to meet its assigned timber targets in recent years, and AFRC hopes this big project will help bolster and grow the forest’s timber program in future years. Source: AFRC writer Tom Partin.

EPA Grant for California Biomass Project

Biomass Magazine reported that EPA Region 9 will provide Plumas County Community Development Commission a $200,000 grant to complete a brownfield property assessment and develop a clean-up plan for a 28-acre former lumber mill site in Crescent Mills, California. The award will leverage approximately $1 million of preliminary assessment and redevelopment grants that have already been provided to the site.

The site will later be developed into an integrative wood utilization campus that will process biomass material removed from surrounding forests for fire control and ecosystem restoration. The campus is expected to include a biomass power station, a wood chipping facility, and other businesses focused on wood product utilization. These operations are expected to spur local economic growth and create jobs lost as a result of the declining timber industry.

Correction: We want to correct an error in the March/April issue. R & R King Logging is located in Florence, Oregon.

TimberWest November/December 2013
May/June 2017

On the Cover
Photo of HM Inc.’s 2454D John Deere was taken by Mary Bullwinkel.

Committed to Preserving the Logging Culture
HM Inc.’s willingness to make new approaches to logging and its ability to specialize has sustained the family business.

National Tree Farmer of the Year
The Defrees Family of Northeast Oregon was awarded the 2016 National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year award by the American Tree Farm System.

Despite Rain and Snow, Fire Season Cometh

Finesse Logging
Shamion Forest Thinning and Salvage

When Logging Promotes Conservation
White and Zumstein say taking on the difficult jobs no one else wants can be challenging, but also rewarding and educational.

Mass Timber Conference Review
A look at the Mass Timber Conference

Wood is Good
A look at the Intermountain Logging Conference

Tech Review
A review of tracked log loaders and their capabilities.


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