Cheery Story: Bipartisan Support for Another Endangered Sawmill
You know, in this hyperpartisanised atmosphere it is refreshing when Rs and Ds can work together. They seem to be doing this in states with what I call “endangered sawmills” including Colorado and now, Oregon.
Press Release here
Wyden, Merkley announce Malheur Lumber to postpone closure
Washington, D.C. – U. S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) announced on Tuesday that Malheur Lumber has agreed to remain open past its planned November closure, thanks to a commitment by the US Forest Service (USFS) to make more timber volume available on the Malheur national forest.
In response to requests from Senators Wyden and Merkley, the Governor, county government, and local community groups, Regional Forester Kent Connaughton, who oversees Region 6, including the Malheur National Forest, said the USFS will accelerate timber sales and take other steps to speed up forest restoration work and provide a supply of timber for local mills, in letters to Senators Wyden and Merkley.
“Ochoco Lumber is a vital part of the John Day community and their mill represents the kind of infrastructure we can’t afford to lose if we hope to restore eastern Oregon’s overstocked forests,” Wyden said. “We have plenty of hard work ahead of us, but I promise to keep fighting with the rest of the Oregon delegation to get the Forest Service and the mill what they need.”
“I’m thankful to Regional Forester Connaughton for his swift reaction that indicates the Forest Service will take urgent action to provide more timber, and to John Shelk for keeping his mill doors open on this John Day institution. I am also grateful to the others in the state and community that have stepped up and demonstrated their support of this mill,” Wyden said.
“Closure of the mill would be devastating,” said Merkley. “The livelihood of so many families, the broader Grant County economy, and the vitality of our forests are all on the line. Thus, this reprieve is joyous and welcome news indeed. It must be recognized, however, that more work needs to be done. We need to fully secure a long-term, sustainable supply of sawlogs with the full commitment to the planning and field resources necessary to make that happen.”
“I continue to work on all options to create jobs in our forests and forested communities and provide more timber for mills across Oregon,” said Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.). “The crux of the problem is the need to reduce the regulatory gridlock that drives the cost of producing timber and jobs through the roof and largely prevents our land managers from doing work needed to improve forest health and create jobs in and value from our forests. Communities and businesses must have access to the natural resources that surround them to create jobs and reduce the risk and occurrence of wildfire.”
In light of the Forest Service letter (available here) as well as an outpouring of support for Malheur Lumber from the Oregon delegation, the Governor, county commissioners, the Blue Mountain Forest Partners collaborative and the John Day community, Shelk said Ochoco will put the mill closure on hold, at least for the next few months.
“This commitment is a good first step, and I’m thankful to Senator Wyden and the rest of the delegation for putting in the hard work that gives me the confidence to keep our mill running,” Shelk said. “Thanks to their efforts, and the outstanding community support over the past few weeks, we’ve authorized our foresters to buy enough public and private timber to keep the mill in operation past the planned November closure.”
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber: “Malheur Lumber is a key cog in the economy of eastern Oregon. I am gratified by the outpouring of support for Malheur Lumber and the Blue Mountain collaborative, and appreciate the work that the Forest Service and Senator Wyden are doing to keep this mill open. The state is working with Senator Wyden and the rest of the Oregon delegation to find solutions that will keep our vanishing mill infrastructure and jobs in place.”
It sounds like Ochoco Lumber employs about 80 folks, based on this news story. I couldn’t find the numbers on the company website, but it does seem to be locally owned (not multistate, nor multinational, it sounds barely multi-county)! They did have a link to the benefits here.