March April, 2003





In The News

Saving Jobs in Shelton
Atlas Holdings, LLC is looking to purchase both the veneer and plywood sides of the Simpson Timber Co.'s plywood mill in Shelton, Wash. With the change in ownership, the company would run under the name Olympic Panel Products LLC. To ensure the sale goes through, the union employees at Shelton have voted to accept paycuts. The sale should close later in March.

Staples Goes Green
Staples Inc. has formally committed to using paper products from certified or managed forests. They are the first U.S. office supply company to do so. "This is a significant moment for Staples and our commitment to environmental stewardship," said Staples' vice chairman Joseph Vassalluzzo. "We now embrace the work ahead toward realizing our environmental goals." This will put some extra pressure on mills to locate fiber from "certified" growers. On the positive side, even though the public has been hesitant to pay a premium for green-certified wood products, interest in certification continues to grow. The downside is that certification is costly and burdensome, preventing many small landowners from becoming certified and therefore making it hard to ensure wood gets to the mills. This recent action by Staples will only intensify the issue. Staples sells $11 billion in office products annually through 1,400 stores worldwide, and employs approximately 55,000 workers.

Taking the Redwoods to New Zealand
Having grown weary of dealing with environmental obstacles in North America, Soper-Wheeler Co. has contracted with a Humboldt County tree nursery to genetically engineer redwood trees to grow in New Zealand. They are investing with the belief that expanding their venture into New Zealand will be more profitable and effective. In addition, New Zealand’s climate conditions should positively affect the new genetically improved strains — the New Zealand trees should grow larger than North Coast redwoods of the same age. "Even if North Coast redwood productivity maintains the status quo, consumer demand over the next 40 years will outstrip available supply. New Zealand redwood could fill the gap," said William Libby, professor emeritus of forestry and genetics at UC Berkeley.

No Funds to Fight Fires
In February, lawmakers from several western states spoke out about the lack of funding in the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) proposed fiscal 2004 budget to fight fires. It was especially troublesome coming on the heels of the second worst wildfire season in history. In 2002 the USFS used up the funds it had available, and an additional $1 billion had to be moved from other forest programs, to fight the season’s blazes. The Bush administration had proposed increasing the USFS fire management budget to $1.54 billion in 2004 — up $173 million — with fire fighting programs totalling more than a third of the agency's $4.06 billion budget. Presently the budget stands at $416 million to thin some 2.5 million acres susceptible to fires. "I'm worried about the consequences of other programs if we suffer a serious, bad fire season again this year," said Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican who chaired a committee hearing on the proposal. "There is sort of a growing weary of not funding these very much needed (programs) and expecting to fund them later..."

Timber Firms May Manage More
You may be hearing the term "stewardship contract" more in the future. A provision was added to Congress’ domestic spending bill that would allow timber industries to take a greater role in managing millions of acres of national forests in California and across the West. The proposal would let the USFS and the BLM award "stewardship contracts" — paying logging companies in trees for maintaining trails or thinning forests to reduce the risk of wildfire. Some are worried that this would open the forests to heavier logging. USFS officials said the provision could potentially affect eight million acres of national forest in California, although it's likely to have a much smaller impact.  Currently, the agency thins approximately 100,000 acres in California each year. "It would take an awful lot of years at 100,000 acres a year to reach eight million acres," Forest Service spokesman Matt Mathes said. "It's a good program," said David Bischel, president of the California Forestry Association, a group representing commercial timber interests. "The pilot projects we have seen have generally resulted in improved forest health. . . . and do so at lower appropriated costs to the government and to the taxpayers."

Still Working on Tariff
Reports on the Canadian softwood tariffs seem to change almost daily. There is pressure on both sides to come to an agreement. One of the effects of the tariff placed on Canadian wood has been the reverse of its intention — it has increased Canadian imports. Although exports to the U.S. from eastern Canada dropped, they shot up in the West, where mills increased production to lower plant operations costs. British Columbia exports rose two percent after the tariff was imposed. The tariff applies to all Canadian mills, some of which are owned by U.S. companies including Weyerhaeuser Co., but most of which are in Canadian hands. "The mills had to produce more to lower their unit cost," says Carl Grenier, executive vice president of the Free Trade Lumber Council, an association of Canadian producers.

Small Businesses Unrepresented
An article published in the Business Examiner this past January indicates that Washington State’s 200,000 small businesses are not adequately considered by those who make rules and laws, even though they encompass 95 percent of all Washington business and provide almost 60 percent of the jobs in the private sector. The information was gathered by the Washington Policy Center (WPC), which examined the Washington State business climate and its affect on small businesses. In addition, the WPC found "that lawmakers spend their time and energy discussing tax and regulatory affects on large corporations and ignore the affects on small business, which make up the bulk of the employment opportunities in the state." To improve the situation, the WPC will conduct a statewide small business conference in the fall. Business leaders, policy makers and academics will work to identify problems and find their solutions. For more information about the WPC people are encouraged to visit their web site at  or phone Don Zarelli at (206) 937-9691.


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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004