In The News

Wildfires Have Negative Effect on North American Air in 2020

The devastating wildfires that torched a record 4.3 million acres in the U.S. in 2020 made North America the only region in the world where air quality was worse than during the previous year, reported Bloomberg Green.

Most of the world’s major cities had better air last year than in 2019, mainly thanks to coronavirus lockdowns that cleared skies for weeks or months, according to the annual report by air quality platform IQAir.

Los Angeles, Melbourne, and Sao Paulo, all of which were close to major wildfires in 2020, were among the few cities where pollution was worse than in 2019.

In the U.S., 38% of cities had levels of fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, that exceeded World Health Organization quality standards in 2020, up from 21% the previous year.  Western coast skies were so choked with wildfire smoke during September that 77 of the world’s 100 most polluted cities that month were in the U.S. 

Lumber Prices and a Push Back

KOMU 8 reported that during the late summer months of 2020, lumber prices began to skyrocket, and those numbers have yet to come back down. While the price of 1,000 feet of lumber has ranged from $216 to more than $1,000 over the last decade, it is currently sitting at $933.60.

“The problem is, after the financial crisis, the entire construction industry shrunk in terms of its capacity to deliver,” Boone County Lumber owner Brad Eiffert said. “We went from consistently doing over 1.5 million housing starts to about a 1.1 million average for about 10 years.”

That number of private homes being constructed per month has continued to increase each year since 2009. This growth has created a great demand for lumber all across the United States, driving the price up. Low interest rates are fueling it even more.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is aggressively engaging the Biden administration on lumber. NAHB is urging policymakers to address skyrocketing lumber prices and supply shortages that are harming home builders, home buyers, and remodelers.

Letters were sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Forest Service Chief Victoria Christiansen that addressed NAHB’s urgent concerns on this issue and recommended key strategies to ease lumber price volatility and boost supply.

NAHB spearheaded an effort that led to 35 organizations signing onto a joint letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urging the secretary to “examine the lumber supply chain, identify the causes for high prices and supply constraints, and seek immediate remedies that will increase production.”

Bill to Recast Oregon’s Forestry Board Faces Pushback by Timber Industry

The Oregonian reported that lawmakers took testimony on a bill that would sharply curtail the timber industry’s influence on the seven-member board that sets forestry policy in Oregon and oversees the state Department of Forestry.

Senate Bill 335 would accomplish that by reducing the number of board members who can have financial ties to the timber industry from the current three down to two and require that one of those two members be a small woodland owner. It also sets a timber-related income level that establishes a conflict of interest for board members at $1,000 annually, though that figure is likely to be amended.

Lastly, the bill would also dissolve three standing advisory committees to the board and it would transfer the authority to hire and fire the state forester, the executive who runs the forestry department, from the board to the governor.

The committee took public testimony and heard a good deal of pushback from industry.

TimberWest November/December 2013
March/April 2021

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