Packaging Corporation of America has notified employees at its mill in Wallula, Washington, that the plant will be idled and will not resume operations until later this year. The company, based in Lake Forest, Ill., attributed the action to “economic conditions.”
“We expect to resume operations at the mill later this year,” the company said in a statement.
It appears the decision will affect about 300 workers. The pulp and paper mill makes about 1,800 tons of unbleached paper and corrugate medium each day.
Corrugated products facilities in Richland and Wallula were not affected and will remain open.
There was no apparent warning under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires companies with 100 or more employees affected by layoffs to give advance notice. The notices are required for temporary shutdowns that last six months or longer.
Karl Dye, president of the Tri-City Development Council, said while the news is unfortunate, workers are in demand across skill and education levels in the region. The local economy should be able to re-employ them, he said.
With 450 workers in total in the region, Packaging Corporation of America is Walla Walla County’s ninth largest employer.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest $63 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act to expand wildfire barriers, known as fuel breaks, to protect communities and firefighters in five states in the West.
Fuel breaks slow a fire’s spread, create a safe zone for firefighters to work and a safer place to conduct hazardous fuel reduction treatments like prescribed burns.
This new round of investments will support projects in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, and South Dakota. They will improve firefighter response, protect critical infrastructure and natural resources, ensure clean drinking water, support local timber industries, enhance rural economies and create jobs.
The projects were identified through a cross-boundary process that brings together Tribes, local wildland fire managers, business owners, elected officials and scientists to plan for future fires. It supports the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy as well as complementary fuels treatment efforts.
Through this planning process, the U.S. Forest Service works with local communities to identify fire barriers such as roads, rivers and other landscape features that can prevent wildfires from spreading. Reinforcing barriers and constructing adjacent fuel breaks will help reduce the risk of high-severity wildfires in the project areas. All of these areas are in, or adjacent to, high-risk fire sheds that are outside of the initial 21 Wildfire Crisis Strategy landscapes.
As April waned, the usual spring buying of construction framing softwood lumber had not yet materialized. Suppliers had plenty of inventory on hand for customers who continued to only order wood for immediate needs. As such, supply remained quite ahead of demand.
Even as the days got progressively longer and the weather improved, there did not seem to be a boom in home building, as has been historically normal. As such, the recent and ongoing production curtailments – especially in British Columbia, Canada, – helped keep sawmill order files to within two or three weeks.
Demand for Western S-P-F in the U.S. was so-so, according to traders. Business was heavily region- and product-dependent, with bread-and-butter dimension and stud items garnering the lion’s share of demand. Experienced players wondered whether sawmills might consider cutting the odd shift to pull material out of what many referred to as an oversupplied market. Downstream buyers were content with replenishing through the distribution network and still showed no urgency to cover more than immediate needs.
According to Canadian purveyors, the Western S-P-F market continued to struggle to reach typical spring price levels. Prices stabilized further, with nearly all dimension commodities remaining at or on either side of the previous week’s numbers.
The US Forest Service says thinning forests to protect communities remains its top priority. However, members of Congress from the West are increasingly challenging the Forest Service to do more.
Meanwhile, federal firefighters are challenging Congress to do more – especially with a congressionally created budget crisis butting up against the start of what could prove a difficult fire season across the west.
Western lawmakers recently grilled Forest Service Chief Randy Moore about the long delays in funding and actually approving forest restoration projects designed to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires that can consume whole towns and permanently alter forest ecosystems. The decade-long delay in implementing the 4-Forests Restoration Project emerged as a prime example in the congressional hearings. Moreover, a series of studies by the General Accounting Office maintains that the Forest Service has routinely exaggerated the number of acres treated by often counting the same ground two or three times
Moore said the top priority of the Forest Service is now reducing hazardous fuel loads on 4 million acres of high-risk forest nationwide, partly with the help of $320 million in infrastructure money requested by the Biden Administration and approved by Congress.
“We all recognize that we have an emergency situation out there and we need to be doing more work rather than less work,” said Moore.
California, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona have all set wildfire records in the past several years, thanks to a century of forest mismanagement compounded by two decades of drought.
The wet winter across the West has eased some of the urgency when it comes to preparing for the wildfire season. However, the shift to a hot dry spring and the likely delay in the onset of the monsoon could result in a return to dangerous fire conditions later in the summer in California, Washington, Oregon and elsewhere.
The federal government spent about $2 billion on fighting and managing wildfires in 1994. By fiscal 2022, spending had increased to $7.5 billion. More than half of the money went to putting out fires – rather than preparing communities, rehabilitating burn areas and fuels management.
Willamette National Forest in Oregon will receive $14.7 million for wildfire fuels reduction efforts, the U.S. Forest Service announced.
The funds, allocated under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Law, will be used to establish fuel breaks on planning units known as potential operational delineations (PODs). PODs are areas with defined boundaries, such as road and natural features, that can be used to establish control lines for containing wildfires, officials said.
“We’re looking forward to building on existing partnerships and creating new ones to do this work in areas and in ways that benefit people,” said Dave Warnack, supervisor for the Willamette National Forest. “Together we will strategically identify and implement work to protect communities, homes, infrastructure, and industrial forests through the use of fuel breaks and PODs, tools that give us the best opportunity to protect the things that are most important on our landscapes.”
The investment will fund mechanical treatments that will improve fire containment, prescribed fire, and firefighter safety.
The Forest Service said it will work with communities, landowners, industrial partners and collaboratives to reduce wildfire risks to highly-valued resources within or adjacent to the Willamette National Forest.
Stoltze Timber Systems in Columbia Falls, Montana, is receiving $1 million in U.S. Forest Service funding to support the development of a wood processing plant and allow for the implementation of new timber water crossings.
Pat Clark, managing partner of manufacturing at Stoltze, said the timber company was awarded the money after applying for the wood innovation grant with the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service.
Clark said that previous wood innovation grants were used primarily for research. This funding will let Stoltze buy the machinery and set up a manufacturing facility for mass timber projects using small diameter timber.
“It allows us to add value to the current saw and timber products by turning them into engineered wood products,” Clark said.
While the funds won’t cover the whole project, it is a step in the right direction. Sammi Johnson, the marketing and communications director at Stolze, said that it boils down to a resource need: There are a lot of small trees in Northwest Montana with nowhere to go.
“It takes a while to get to a place where we can use those trees for something valuable,” Johnson said. “This helps solve a big industry-wide resource problem.”
New Zealand Company’s Goal Is Creating Safer, More Productive Steep-Slope Logging
New Zealand-based logging equipment manufacturer DC Equipment, which manufactures the Falcon brand of steep-slope logging equipment, has acquired the Madill brand from Nicholson Group, a British Columbia company that has held the brand for the last 12 years.
Madill, which has a history dating to 1911, manufactures tower and swing yarders as well as log loaders. The brand is synonymous with cable logging across the globe and is known to loggers across North America.
Madill has changed hands over the last few decades and been under various ownership structures, from competing manufacturers to international investment groups. Nicholson Group had owned Madill since 2011 and added the products to its own line of debarking equipment.
Dale Ewers, owner and founder of DC Equipment, who also is a logger in New Zealand, said the acquisition provides an opportunity to achieve DC Equipment’s mission of “creating a safer and more productive steep-slope logging industry throughout the world.” The move also will benefit other industries, he said.
“Madill is known for its durability, ability to perform, and longevity, which is important in this industry,” said Dale, “and those strong equipment features align with our current brand, Falcon.”
“We don’t plan to reinvent Madill products,” continued Dale. “We believe there’s tremendous heritage, and the Madill machines work exceptionally well in steep slope ground. However, we do see an opportunity to integrate some of DC Equipment’s current and future technology and innovation.”
The move will benefit logging contractors, said Dale. “We’re not here to be the biggest manufacturer. We’re here to provide the best solution for our customers,” he said.
Current Madill customers will be able to receive parts and service through their existing channels until updated otherwise.
Updates on the acquisition will be posted on the DC Equipment and Madill websites and social media. Madill customers with questions should contact DC Equipment via its website, www.dcforestryequipment.com.
DC Equipment has manufactured steep-slope logging equipment under their Falcon brand since 2010. Falcon products include motorized grapple carriages, winch assist machines, yarders, and camera systems. Falcon equipment has over 1 million operational hours and zero harm.
Over 3,000 Madill yarders have been produced. Madill equipment operates around the world, especially in North America and New Zealand.
ON THE COVER
Cat 568LL forest machine loads a truck at a landing. Pihl Logging has seven loaders in all: three Cat machines, three Doosans, and one Prentice.
Firewood Business a Boon
Firewood production aids Pihl Logging when wet ground slows work; investment in Tajfun firewood processor pays off.
Believers in New Technology
Nelson Brothers Timber Management chooses a Tigercat LSX870D shovel for its stability in steep terrain.