Derek is a pretty skookum guy. A while back he said the Saratoga Mill had reopened. I hate to confess that I doubted him, because the entire time I worked in Region 2 it was on the horizon.. but always on the horizon, sort of a sawmill Holy Grail. I also thought I would have seen it in a news clip.
Derek, I apologize.
So, sure enough, I went to a field hearing today at the State Capitol (more later on that) and who did I run into also looking for the meeting room, but one of the folks who runs the now open Saratoga mill. How did I miss that?
So I looked on the trusty internet and found this… on USA Today of all places!
Here’s the link and below is an excerpt.
A HARD FALL
The housing downturn hit the wood products and timber industries hard.
At the height of the housing boom in 2005, consumption of U.S. lumber hit almost 65 billion board feet. It fell to about half that at the bottom of the market in 2010. Last year, it climbed back to 37.5 billion and will likely pass 40 billion this year, FEA estimates.
With rising demand, a few lumber mills are roaring back to life. Out of 146 North American lumber mills closed since 2008, 14 have reopened or announced plans to do so, says industry analyst Paul Jannke. Five are in the U.S., including the one in Evergreen, and others are in Alabama, Wyoming, Virginia and Colorado. The rest are in Canada.
Other mills are reopening, too, including those making plywood and oriented strand board, a plywood competitor.
This summer, Toronto’s Norbord expects to reopen an OSB mill in Jefferson, Texas, that has been closed since 2009, the company says.
Rising prices are a big motivator. OSB prices are up 134% since the end of 2011, Jannke says. Framing lumber prices are up 64%, according to the composite index kept by the Random Lengths industry newsletter. Plywood prices are up 43%.
“Prices are strong enough that we can make a profit,” says Gary Ervin, owner of Saratoga Forest Management. In January, it reopened a mill in Saratoga, Wyo., that makes studs used to frame houses. The mill had been closed for 10 years. It now employs 80.
None of the reopened mills are especially large, but neither are their communities. Saratoga, population 1,678, describes itself as a place “where the trout leap in Main Street.”
Thanks to Chelsea for producing this table from the database here.
Chelsea and the folks at Forest Products Laboratory gave me some caveats, which I tried to understand. Not sure I am there but hopefully others can correct me.
These tables do not include “fuelwood”. Nor do they include biomass chips which have not been processed through mills here (I think). So I guess they don’t include export logs either?
The folks in the Northeast sent this..when I asked about the export of logs and chips.
We also try to capture the export market. But the export market is hard to get good information from. We ask the mills that we canvass if any of the logs are exported overseas. Trying to get information from the ports as to what is exported is problematic. There are issues with species identification and sources of the logs. For example, there is a large log exporter in Council Bluffs, IA to pulls logs from all over the country. But the source of the logs that are exported may be listed as only coming from IA.
For the pellet stuff, I was just saying that for the North, at least, we haven’t done a TPO survey in the New England States (I think Maine has a pellet mill, or more). I am getting information from ME, NH, and VT from their tax information that they collect, so I cannot get mill level information. Therefore, I do not know if, or which pellet mills are being captured. The pellet mills that I have in our database currently are in MI and WI. I do not know if these are exported or not.
From the RPA, fuelwood includes residential and industrial fuelwood. The industrial fuelwood comes from our TPO surveys and, for the most part, the residential fuelwood comes from the Dept. of Energy fuelwood surveys
But given all those caveats.. Industrial Roundwood Harvest by State is the table of all 50 states from the TPO database. Again, thanks to Chelsea!
I also ran across this link to some information about the wood pellet sector. Not sure that there is information you can add up to say “this is where US trees are going” across the different uses.
Thanks to the folks at the Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory for this table! This shows that Georgia is the top timber-producing state in 2012 based on MCF of all products. But many things of interest are in here. Here is a link to the table. timber table
I was curious about the assertion that Oregon was the top timber-producing state.
This is pretty interesting because Mr. Wynsma was able to obtain a great deal of information, (should that information be available more generally?) and also his observations as employee and collaborator. I’m starting a page on ideas for solving “the Problem” and will put his ideas, as well as the ideas found (buried?) in comments here, on that page. Here’s the link, and below is an excerpt.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Truth about Collaboration
Even though I don’t believe the current process for collaboration will solve these problems, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good things about the collaborative process or that the process can’t be improved upon to help solve the problems.
Here’s what I and other current and retired Forest Service acquaintances I contacted think are good things about the collaborative process:
Involving a diverse group of people (I hate the term “stakeholders”) during the project planning process is a good thing. I believe it helps the Forest Service design projects that better meet the desires of the public, even though it’s impossible to meet everybody’s personal opinions on how to best manage the public forests.
With collaboration comes group ownership in projects and support from start to finish.
Joint solutions and commitment means no backing out.
The collaborative program provides assistance with funding to accomplish needed treatments.
Collaboration can help lay people better understand the complexity of forest management.
Collaboration may build community relationships that encourage continuing positive working relationships between Forest Service people and the community.
Collaborative groups police themselves and force extremists on both sides of the spectrum to consider what they are really saying philosophically vs. practically on any given issue.
On the other hand, there are things about collaboration that are not so good, if not bad. Here’s what I and other current and retired Forest Service acquaintances I contacted think are bad things about the collaborative process:
The collaborative process is time consuming and more costly than the traditional process of public scoping and comment gathering for projects. The more people involved in a project, the harder it is to schedule meeting dates and field trips that will maximize the largest group involvement. The results of my inquiry clearly show that projects aren’t moving through the NEPA and appeals process any faster than normal and possibly even taking longer.
The time consuming nature of collaboration can be a major deterrent to people that are not paid to attend meetings during working hours, people who have limited free time or travel. Forest Service people can become weary of after hour meetings, paid or not paid.
Meetings can go on for months, if not years. This consumption of time makes it difficult, if not impossible, for many people to take part.
Poorly managed meetings generate negative emotions and can ruin the entire process.
For individuals or groups with an agenda to limit or eliminate forest management, collaboration can provide an opportunity to wear others down by dragging meetings on and on, then appeal and/or litigate after an extended collaboration process. Collaboration can also usurp the agency’s authority.
The Forest Service may or may not be aware of hidden agendas or games being played by some members in a collaborative group.
Forest Service specialists may feel like they get “cut-out” of project development.
Also considering project specialists: the more days they have to spend in meetings, the less time they have to conduct field work and write reports, which extend the timeline for implementing projects.
The ugly truth is that collaboration won’t reduce analysis paralysis, appeals and litigation. Collaboration also won’t increase the rate at which the Forest Service can reduce fuels and restore unhealthy forests until the appeals process and our current myriad of conflicting environmental laws are reformed.
So what are some possible ways to improve the collaborative process?
Here’s a few:
After all the time and effort put into project development by collaborative groups and the Forest Service, it simply isn’t fair to the collaborative or to the taxpayers of this country to allow an inexpensive process for individuals and groups, whether they were members of the group or not, to stop or delay project implementation through appeals and litigation.
Congress should pass a new law that will exempt collaborative projects from the appeal or objection process. They should also include bonding requirements for any individual or group that file suits to stall or stop collaborative projects.
Congress should also reform or eliminate the Equal Access to Justice Act, which allows litigants to recuperate court costs from the tax paying public.
The Forest Service should develop a new Categorical Exclusion to replace the Healthy Forests Restoration Act version (CE #10) that allowed for fuels reduction timber harvests less than 1,000 acres in size. The CE #10 was rescinded following a lawsuit filed by environmental groups because in my opinion this CE allowed for expedited implementation of fuels reduction projects.
To get a broader spectrum of public involvement, make more use of the internet to gather input from people who want to participate in collaboration but don’t have the time or money to show up for meetings and field trips. The Forest Service could maintain email mailing lists for projects that people want to be engaged in and could be kept up to date on the progression of projects without having to show up for meetings. For example, with the smart phone technology I could imagine a logger sitting in the woods during a lunch break or a hiker up on a mountain top being able to participate in a collaborative project.
Note from Sharon: I was somewhat involved in the development of CE#10, not sure that would help at the end of the day. I really like his last point in terms of the criticism I hear from both sides.
One of the interesting things about this blog is that we get to compare conditions that aren’t usually compared across our areas, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, California, the SW, Wyoming and South Dakota and Colorado. We could probably use more contributors from the Midwest, East and South.
This interesting piece is from the Aspen Business Journal, of Aspen, Colorado. (I was thinking the same information might be written differently if it were written, in say, Boulder…;))
Here’s the link and below are excerpts.
While Colorado’s forests continue to suffer from beetle epidemics at high altitude and the hangover from a century’s fire suppression at lower altitude, there’s some good news out there for those who believe in active forest management.
Timber prices, which were bottomed out during much of Colorado beetle kill epidemic, are set to skyrocket, and the state’s timber industry may be rising in time to take advantage, industry experts said. And while there are millions of acres of standing dead timber that may never be harvested, there’s also some good news out there for at salvaging at least some of the beetle-kill pine, as well.
“In general, we’re still suffering the impacts of a century of fire suppression, so at this point active management makes a lot of sense,” said Mike Eckhoff, a PhD Candidate in forest science at Colorado State University.
“We’ve lost 80 percent of our (timber) productivity since the 1980s,” Eckhoff said. “This could be a boon for Colorado’s timber industry provided that timber is actually made available for the industry to use.”
Timber prices hit an eight-year high in March, largely due to the rising U.S. housing market. Research by the International Wood Markets indicates the U.S. and Canada probably will not be able to fulfill that timber demand in two to three years, creating even higher prices and perhaps prompting imports from Europe.
Canadian timber production was hurt by the pine beetle epidemic, the report said, but also by permanent mill closings during the recession and the loss of two large mills due to fire.
The past failure of the Colorado timber industry is usually blamed on the U.S. Forest Service making fewer trees available in light of environmental resistance to logging. While the beetle-kill epidemic and catastrophic wildfires may have taken some of the edge off the latter concern, forest industry experts are now more worried that cuts to the Forest Service’s budget may hinder making wood available through forest management.
In addition, things have also been looking up for Colorado’s two large pellet mills, and rising timber prices will also help them, Fishering said.
“Our industry is pretty diverse, and we’re a lot more competitive than we were in the ’70s,” she said. “We are extremely optimistic.”
Colorado may also be able to salvage much more of the standing dead lodgepole pine, than previously thought, Eckoff said. While most industry experts thought that after three or four years the beetle-kill trees were not sturdy enough to create dimension timber, he said, new studies indicate that doesn’t appear to be the case for trees that have not fallen.
The upland spruce trees that are now being killed by the spruce bark beetle are highly prized in the industry, though not all the acreage will be available to loggers. In fact, about two-thirds of the state’s 4.5 million acres of spruce-fir forests are off limits to management because of wilderness or roadless designation, according to a study by the Colorado State Forest Service.
Still, Eckhoff thought there are plenty of acres in need of management that could be producing forest products.
“Colorado produces an annual net forest growth of 1.5 billion board feet, but we only harvest 6 percent of that, or 87 million board feet,” he said. “In other words the removals do not significantly reduce the interest nor do they touch the principal.”
This article on lumber markets seemed timely for a variety of reasons. It seems to me that we are looking at a window where, if we can find a solution, we will be helping rural communities, sustaining forests and in some cases offsetting costs of fuel reduction and hazard abatement (dead trees along roads, see photo). And for those which would have been otherwise burned in piles, helping to sequester carbon. Seems like a win win, if we all can agree on sustainable practices.
Here’s the link and below is an excerpt:
Lumber prices hit an eight-year high last week, thanks in large part to the U.S. housing market thawing out after a long deep freeze and rising overseas demand.
“The last few years have been a slow recovery from the recession for wood products,” Phil Tedder, a forestry consultant at Resource Economics, told the Los Angeles Times. “The main consumer was new housing, and that obviously wasn’t very good. But now things are picking up.”
California’s long-established timber industry is also hauling itself off the forest floor. According to the Times, sawmills shut down by the recession have reopened, and trucking companies that deliver cut wood out of state are seeing business improve. The newspaper also notes lumber prices have jumped 40% just in the past year’s time.
Also, China’s seemingly endless hunger for raw materials has extended to American timber. The U.S. Forest Service says log exports from Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Northern California increased about 9% in the third quarter of 2012 — with 62% of those West Coast log exports going to China.
In a report from ABC News, timber industry newsletter Random Lengths said the composite price for the framing lumber used in home construction was up last month to $415 per 1,000 board feet, compared to $284 a year ago. Plywood and paneling prices are up sharply as well.
Another Montana project.. above is the map. You can click on it to get greater detail.
Here’s a link to a news story, below is an excerpt.
The area covered by the timber sale is along the western and southern shores of Hebgen Lake. The Forest Service initiated the project, saying logging would safeguard area cabins from wildfires.
But Mike Garrity of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said some of the proposed logging is in roadless areas away from the cabins. The Forest Service would build six miles of logging roads and log 400 acres of designated old growth forest.
Both groups claim the old growth areas are habitat for lynx, grizzly bears and wolverines, all of which are rare. The Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service both determined in an assessment that logging would adversely affect grizzlies and lynx.
Garrity said the groups don’t oppose all the logging in that area, just the old growth sections.
“Their own fire expert says to start at the structures and work out, clearing the trees to create a defensible space, and they’re not doing that,” Garrity said.
This isn’t the first challenge for this area. The Forest Service proposed a similar sale but dropped the sale after Alliance for the Wild Rockies sued in 2009.
Garrity said the Forest Service loses money on timber sales, because it is usually unable to get enough money for the logs to cover its costs.
“Right now, when the government is authorizing less spending with the sequester, timber sales cost the taxpayer,” Garrity said.
In a couple of seconds, I was able to find this handy ROD. It’s in a pdf so you can search for old growth. You can look at the map and see how far the units are from private land (not very).. “roadless areas”?. But it would be handy to have the overlay of the units on Googlemaps.
Vegetation – Old Growth Protection
45. Old growth stands in Compartment 709 will be avoided during unit layout. Unit boundaries for unit 17, 20, 25, 26C, 26B and 26A will avoid adjacent old growth stands 70907006 (unit 17), 70907029 (unit 20), 70906036 (unit 25/26c), 70904036 (units 26a/26b). These avoidances will require inspection of preliminary unit boundaries on the ground to ensure old growth stands are avoided.
I’m sure it is more complex than it appears from this glance, but that is what I’d expect a story to get at .. if Garrity says they are far away and going into old growth, what does the FS have to say?
Note for retirees and other local folks Even if the FS can’t share their perspective due to the litigation cone of silence, you can learn about the project and be available to the media. You can be spokespeople for CREATE. Part of CREATE’s mission is to ensure that good information is given to the public about projects. This is one “direct action” approach.
Trail maintenance and fire suppression also cost the taxpayer, so I’m not sure exactly what Garrity’s point is there.
Sharon’s review of document:
I think the ROD is convenient to use, and generally excellent with all the information you need to find right there. Would also like to see more photos and the units on Google maps. Maybe they are located somewhere else. A- Nice work!
Sharon’s review of news story:
Did not even superficially examine Garrity’s claims. D
Ed raised the question of “where do people on the blog think “intensive management, thinning and prescribed burning” belong.. everywhere? roadless? primitive areas?”
So I’ll go first.
I think that for places where there is no “timber industry” currently:
A. “Thinning for protection” thinning should be done around communities and roads in fire country . We should all work together on building “fire resilient communities and landscapes.” We should analyze all the places fire could start and make sure that for every really dangerous area, there are good areas for suppression between them and communities.
We should work on developing markets for the wood removed, so rural people are employed and we can afford to do it.
We would estimate the acreages and volume through time and then encourage industries to come in and use the material. Watch dog groups would watch to make sure than no more was offered for sale than in the agreement.
When a roadless area or wilderness is in a WUI, we would bring in experienced fire folks and determine if the fire could be fought safely with a break on private land (preferred) or public land.
Otherwise the backcountry would be left alone unless there is some compelling reason for action (protecting endangered species, corridors? or whatever).
B. “Thinning for protection plus resilience” Where there is existing mill capacity, thinnings may also be done if they make stands more resilient to drought and bugs, and they make money (not that they are restoring to the past, but the past had those attributes, say open parklike stands of ponderosa).
Now I was drafting this last night in response to Ed’s question. Meanwhile, I ran across these news stories.. in the Blue Mountains Accelerated Restoration project, it appears to be “thinning for protection plus resilience.” There are several good quotes about the rationale in the story.
The roughly 50,000 acres thinned or logged annually within the four forests is probably less than 20 per cent of what’s needed, Aney said.
“We need to at least double that” to stabilize forest health within 15 years, he said.
The plan Aney will execute calls for managing the Blues in blocks of several hundred thousand acres, instead of the current 30,000-acre planning units. Logging or thinning is likely on no more than 40 percent of each planning unit, Aney said. Individual projects will have to go through environmental reviews.
Work in the woods is expected to start in summer 2014.
Veronica Warnock, conservation director for the La Grande-based Hells Canyon Preservation Council, was more guarded. She said forest restoration is necessary but should be avoided in places where science doesn’t support it, such as stands of old growth or wildlife corridors.
I wonder what “science” that is, that involves what you should or should not do…I thought the role of science was empirical rather than normative. oh well.
It’s not a surprise that the Forest Service is hiding their response to the sequestration. Simply put, modern projects treat more acres and cut numerous small trees. They cannot accomplish this work without temporary employees. My last year’s Ranger District currently has TWO permanent timber employees, and two others shared with another (larger) Ranger District. I wonder if our Collaborative funds will be returned to the Treasury if projects aren’t completed.
I guess the only way to find out how bad it will be is to welcome the collapse, then decide how to fix it. Meanwhile, the best of the temporaries will find careers (or jobs) elsewhere, and they won’t be coming back. It is hard enough to live on just 6 months of work, each year.
I left Oregon in 1988.. about 25 years ago.. and some of the concerns and the folks were the same, but it sounds like folks like Wyden who have been involved for this whole period of time, are ready for something different. And perhaps more importantly, the folks like Wyden, who want something different, are in positions to help make it happen, and can’t be dismissed in a hail of partisanising rhetoric.
Here’s the link and below are some excerpts:
“The cut level in southwestern Oregon has been, in my view, unacceptable,” U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told the Medford Rogue Rotary Club Friday. “You can be very sure that I will be pushing hard through hearings as chairman of this committee to turn that around.”
Wyden’s comments came after being told that Rough and Ready Lumber Co. in Cave Junction had been forced to close for a week and lay off its workers because of a lack of logs.
In an interview with the Mail Tribune following his talk, Wyden said he did not have a specific figure in mind but felt the harvest level was too low for the economy and the environment.
Much of the local federal forestland is unnaturally overstocked, creating a situation ripe for wildfire and disease, he noted.
He also expressed concern that sequestration — mandatory federal budget cuts — would result in more harvest reduction because of cuts to the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The cuts would go into effect March 1 unless Congress and the Obama administration can settle their financial differences.
“Let’s just say it (the timber harvest) is way short of what the pledged target has been,” he said. “They are a long, long way from the pledged target, and that is what we have to change.”
Wyden said finding a way to break the impasse over logging is critical to the survival of rural Oregon communities.
“There is a common thread among all these communities,” he stressed. “They want good paying jobs. They want to protect their treasure. And they want to make sure they don’t become ghost towns.”
In answer to a question from the audience, Wyden indicated he would reach out to all sides in the debate over how much federal timberland should be harvested. That includes Gov. John Kitzhaber’s forest task force, he noted.
“We all are trying to find common ground between timber folks and environmental folks — that’s really the coin of the realm,” he said.
He observed it can be done, noting he was able to create a bill for the east side of the Cascades after working with diverse factions. “Trust is the key,” he said.
“My top priority as chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee is to find that sweet spot where we can come as close to possible to having it all,” he said. “Let’s make sure we wring every bit of this American advantage out for our country.”
He also noted that Oregon is in a position to take advantage of renewable energy, including hydropower, geothermal power and biomass power.
“Overstocked stands are magnets for fire,” he said, noting material from thinned forests can produce biomass energy while reducing the threat of catastrophic fires.
“When we make our forests healthier with that kind of thinning work, we also have a healthier economy,” he said. “We have a chance then to do right by both our families and the environment.”
That should include salvaging trees killed by drought, disease or wildfire, he added later, in answer to a question from the audience.