From Senator Pryor’s site here.
WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Angus King (I-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) today introduced the Forest Products Fairness Act, a bipartisan bill that provides new opportunities for American forestry producers by allowing their products to qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred Program.
The USDA BioPreferred Program was created to provide new markets for farm commodities and encourage consumers to purchase environmentally-friendly biobased products. Despite the sustainability of wood, pulp and paper products, the USDA has not designated these products as a USDA Certified Biobased Products. The Forest Products Fairness Act would allow domestic forestry products to be labeled as biobased so they could receive increased consumer attention as well as federal government procurement preference. This designation would also level the playing field between domestically-produced wood products and imported products such as Chinese bamboo, which is already eligible for the biobased label and used as a “green” alternative for hardwood flooring or lumber.
“From farms to mills to manufacturers, it’s evident that the forestry industry is vital to Arkansas’s economy,” Pryor said. “By allowing these home-grown companies to expand and compete on same playing field as their international counterparts, our bipartisan bill will build on their success and keep this industry growing.”
“Forestry is an important economic driver in rural Missouri and nationwide,” Blunt said. “I’m glad to support this bipartisan bill, which will help increase economic opportunities for job creators and help our forestry producers compete in a competitive global economy.”
“Many Arkansas jobs depend on our renewable forest resources and the forest products industry and we need to end the discrimination in federal policy against these American jobs,” Boozman said. “This commonsense bill will provide domestically produced forest products with the same label and treatment as imported biobased products.”
“Maine is one of the most forested states in the nation and our forest-based industry plays an instrumental role in the vitality of our state’s economy,” said King. “By finally labeling forest products as what they truly are – biobased products – this bipartisan, common-sense measure will level the playing field for Maine’s foresters and help them to continue thriving in the global economy.”
“From timber to paper and pulp, Maine’s vast forest land is a tremendous source of value for our state’s economy and way of life,” Collins said. “I strongly support this bill because it would help dramatically expand the market for our domestic forest products by rightfully creating a level playing field with other biobased and foreign products.”
“In today’s economic climate, it is vital that we ensure Idaho’s industries are not at a competitive disadvantage due to a misinterpretation of terms,” Crapo said. “Legislation like the Forest Products Fairness Act makes it easier for the forest industry to compete in the global market place and bring economic growth and jobs to Idaho.”
“This bill takes an important step toward creating a level playing field for American businesses trying to compete with their overseas competitors,” Hatch said. “It’s a cost-free way to increase the use and awareness of domestic forestry products in a way that’s good for the economy.”
The BioPreferred Program was originally created by the 2002 Farm Bill to increase the purchase and use of biobased products. Under the program, every federal agency is required to rank their preference of biobased products for purchasing decisions. To increase consumer recognition of biobased products, the program also created voluntary labeling. Since the program’s inception, the USDA has designated more 33 items, representing nearly 3,000 products, as biobased products.
Here’s the link and below is an excerpt.
We received about 60 text messages from people complaining about the stacking in the program,” said Lars Mytting, whose best-selling book “Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood — and the Soul of Wood-Burning” inspired the broadcast. “Fifty percent complained that the bark was facing up, and the rest complained that the bark was facing down.”
He explained, “One thing that really divides Norway is bark.”
One thing that does not divide Norway, apparently, is its love of discussing Norwegian wood. Nearly a million people, or 20 percent of the population, tuned in at some point to the program, which was shown on the state broadcaster, NRK.
In a country where 1.2 million households have fireplaces or wood stoves, said Rune Moeklebust, NRK’s head of programs in the west coast city of Bergen, the subject naturally lends itself to television.
“My first thought was, ‘Well, why not make a TV series about firewood?’” Mr. Moeklebust said in an interview. “And that eventually cut down to a 12-hour show, with four hours of ordinary produced television, and then eight hours of showing a fireplace live.”
Good to share with your local urban tree aficionados..
Practical Advice for Using Insect-Killed Trees
Resource Guide for Forestry Professionals Developed by
U.S. Forest Service, University of Minnesota Duluth
MADISON, Wis. – Millions of dead and dying trees in the United States must be properly used or disposed of as a result of the devastating effects of invasive insects. A new publication released by the University of Minnesota Duluth and the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) provides urban forestry professionals guidance for managing this monumental task.
“Wood Utilization Options for Urban Trees Infested by Invasive Species” is a reference for land managers, arborists, utilization specialists, and other natural resources professionals. It provides comprehensive information on wood technology, markets, and technical information for hardwoods affected by invasive species. This free publication is available in its entirety here: http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/pdf2012/fpl_2012_brashaw001.pdf
“This manual provides a one-stop shop for understanding how the emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, gypsy moth, and thousand cankers disease are affecting hardwoods,” explains Brian Brashaw, program director of the Wood Materials and Manufacturing program at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI). “It also offers valuable insight into the wide variety of products and markets that are available, and practical advice for considering the many options.”
The publication was designed to be a primary reference for natural resource professionals who are on the front lines in dealing with invasive species, according to Bob Ross, project leader of the Engineering Properties of Wood, Wood-based Materials and Structures research unit at FPL.
“This document is based, in large part, on FPL’s longstanding work on the basic properties of wood and wood products, and includes the most up-to-date developments on ways to mitigate the spread of invasive species in firewood,” says Ross.
Non-native invasive species are causing significant ecological and economic damage in the eastern United States. Since its discovery in 2002, the emerald ash borer alone has killed tens of millions of ash trees in 13 states, and cost municipalities, property owners, nursery operators, and forest products industries tens of millions of dollars.
The reference guide, made possible by a grant to NRRI from the U.S. Forest Service’s Wood Education and Resource Center, focuses mainly on uses for ash trees removed from urban settings. It is organized into four sections:
· An overview of the magnitude of the invasive species problem and use options for infested hardwoods. This includes information on agencies that are addressing the issue as well as a list of trade associations that specialize in manufacturing products from wood affected by invasive species.
· Information on the basic properties of hardwood species that grow in urban areas and may be affected by invasive species. Scientific and common names, physical and mechanical properties, machining characteristics, and other data are summarized.
· Market and use options for U.S. ash species, including detailed information on production considerations, quality specifications, market opportunities, and key trade associations. Uses include lumber, furniture, cabinetry, flooring, biomass, and more.
· Detailed, practical heat sterilization options for treating firewood and solid wood packaging materials made from infested wood. Heat sterilization is currently the most practical and environmentally friendly way to kill pests in solid wood and prevent their transfer to other regions.
The loss of trees due to invasive species in urban areas has been significant, bringing to light the value of often overlooked urban forest landscapes. Urban forests are dynamic ecosystems that provide clean air and water, cool cities and save energy, strengthen quality of place and local economies, improve social connections, and many other benefits.
“The invasive species issue has created an opportunity to engage the public in a discussion regarding the importance of our urban forests and the importance of using the wood generated from these forests,” says Tony Ferguson, director of Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry for the U.S. Forest Service.
We have had many serious things on the blog this week, including the Supreme Court, so here are some fun items, thanks to Craig Rawlings of the Forest Business Network.
Here’s the link to an organization called Bad Beetle which makes the iphone case pictured above. This is the link to the IPad case, which is going on my wish list for the holidays..also uses reclaimed fire hose.
Here’s another link to “One2ten – Ten of the most unusual wooden products ever made.”
Note: I am the happy owner of two wood watches and a wood bow tie, so I don’t think the watches are as “bizarre” as the author of the article does.
Production facility for renewable, forest-based nanomaterials first of its kind in the United States
MADISON, Wis. – The U.S. Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) is poised to become the country’s leading producer of forest-based nanomaterials with the opening of a $1.7 million nanocellulose pilot plant. The facility will support an emerging market for new wood-derived renewable materials that will create jobs and contribute an estimated $600 billion to the economy by 2020.
High-ranking industry, government, and academic officials will gather for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and media is welcome to attend.
What: Grand Opening of FPL’s Nanocellulose Pilot Plant
When: Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Presentations by USDA, Forest Service, and Industry Leadership
11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Ribbon cutting and media opportunities for interviews
Where: U.S. Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive, Madison, WI
Who: Attendees include USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman, Forest Service Northern Research Station Director and FPL Acting Director Michael Rains, and industry representatives from companies such as IBM and Lockheed Martin
The United States and other nations will see numerous benefits from the commercialization of wood-derived cellulosic nanomaterials, as they have many desirable characteristics. They can be stronger than Kevlar fiber and provide high strength with low weight. These attributes have attracted the interest of the military for use in lightweight armor and ballistic glass, as well as companies in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, and medical device industries.
As new lightweight, high-performance products are developed and commercialized, fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced, manufacturing in rural areas will increase, and many new high-paying jobs will be created. FPL’s new facility will aid in the commercialization of these materials by providing researchers and early adopters of the technology with working quantities of forest-based nanomaterials.
For over 100 years, FPL’s work with academia, industry, and other government agencies has led to ground-breaking discoveries with great benefit to the public. Additional information on FPL’s research is available at http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us.
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A couple of months ago, a world atlas from the 40′s. was circulating around our office. One of the categories about each country was “natural resources”. In the past, I remember it used to be a good thing for a country to have natural resources, but it seems like now they are to be protected and if a country needs to use them, they should be imported from other countries. Since it seems like people not using resources at all (at least in this astral plane ) is fairly impossible.
Bruce Ward, in an op-ed in today’s Denver Post, asks the same question, but just about trees and wood.
Here’s the link.
Guest Commentary: Harvesting, replanting best way to a healthy forest
Posted: 04/28/2012 01:00:00 AM MDT
By Bruce Ward
The smoke is gone, but the fear remains.
We have lived in Denver’s “wildland urban interface” for decades because of our love of Colorado’s beauty, but now the yearly “fire watch” causes us pause as we hold our breath, hoping the forest around us doesn’t burn.
The most recent fire — the Lower North Fork — claimed three lives, destroyed or damaged 23 homes and charred more than 1,400 acres.
The obvious question is: “Who is to blame?” Yet we should also ask: “Why are we suffering such fire catastrophes?”
The good news: We reduce or prevent future fires by promoting forest health. The bad news: We may have to give up the easy answers of either blaming one person for “setting” each fire; and there is nothing we can do to prevent these fires. Understanding the cause and addressing it give us the ability to stop tragic fires.
We need to stop thinking trees live forever. Like all living things, they have finite life spans. This radical idea of recognizing the cycle of life means forest health is contingent on new trees. This requires us to challenge our belief that cutting trees is not “environmental” or “green.” The old ethos of “let nature take its course” and “in 500 years, the Earth will have healed itself” must be seen as flawed.
The problem has roots from when the West was being settled and clear- cutting was considered expedient and necessary. We were more focused on creating a civilized West. The unintended consequence of endless fire suppression is now manifesting itself.
Native Americans commonly set fires every spring, knowing it kept the trees and animals within the areas stronger. They saw fire as a tool used extensively before the white man’s encroachment and restrictions.
The documented excesses of tree harvesting without environmental limits in the 19th and 20th centuries created a culture that reacted by believing that cutting any tree was sacrilege, using products made from trees wasteful and uneducated.
People then believed that tree-killers should feel guilty about their role in hastening the destruction of our planet.
We know many trees in nature would have life spans not much longer than the longest living human, yet we protect geriatric trees whose very nature is turning them toward fire and replacement. We can see the effects all around us as nature pushes to return to a balance allowing new trees to replace the old.
The time has come to dispel that well-intentioned but wrong environmentalist mantra that forbids killing trees and realize that interfering with nature is what creates the problem.
Now is the time to embrace a new environmentalist culture that embraces planting new trees; that enjoys wood products from local sources because they come from renewable resources; provide jobs to rural economies; and most important brings our environment back into balance.
Undersecretary of Agriculture Harris Sherman asked me to help increase awareness of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and engage the private sector in finding solutions to deal with millions of acres of pine trees dying and turning brown — our own potential “Katrina of the West.”
I reached out to stakeholders who shared views on the complexity and unprecedented magnitude of the epidemic. I found caring citizens who were using Rocky Mountain Blue Stain wood, a community of environmentalists, lumbermen, builders, lumber yards, pellet mills, and furniture-makers, all working together to take our blue wood and turn it into products that would help the forest heal.
But even these efforts struggle against the mistaken belief that using wood is somehow bad.
The time is now to change decades of outmoded public perception that the only good forestry goal is to let our forests age, and realize how sustainable forestry is married to utilizing wood products in order to plant and grow new trees.
Bruce Ward is the founder of Choose Outdoors and a White House Champion of Change for Rural America. He lives in Pine.
Meanwhile, a colleague ran across this highly green (and expensive) car which advertises that it uses “, and rescued wood trim retrieved from the 2007 firestorm in Orange County, California.” I guess one person’s “rescue” is another person’s “salvage.” The whole question of “when it’s OK to use wood” seems to be worthy of further exploration; it has a variety of social, philosophical and environmental implications that we could potentially parse out.
SAF has two concerns about this version of the LEED certification scheme, put out by the US Green Building Council. One is that gives one certification system special credit (FSC), and the other is the question of 50 versus 500 miles for procurement. Here’s a letter from SAF weighing in on this.
My problem is even more fundamental. Certification systems are for managed forests and the point of certification is to ensure that those forests are managed sustainably. However, in our case (say, Colorado bark beetle- killed trees), those forests have not actually been managed at all, in the sense of fertilization, planting and thinning or the other practices that certification systems usually concern themselves with. A simple person would think it would be highly “green” to use our bounty of dead trees locally, or in Denver (500 from bug-killed would get us Denver), rather than, say, FSC certified products from anywhere far away. In my opinion, these incentives seem perverse, to say the least.
USGBC is a 501c3 not-for-profit, so there is no requirement for them to be responsive to the public’s concerns, but they are pretty much the gold (or platinum;?) standard for green building. Even the US Government touts using this scheme for buildings, despite the fact that our national forest system lumber would not be rated as “green.” Strange but true.
Note from Sharon: I published this over the weekend and then republished just now, hoping that someone might be interested. Perhaps I have found a topic too arcane for even this blog? I guess there’s no hope for another one I have in mind “Should federal agencies buy renewable energy credits?”
Foto asked about volunteers and firewood, and I found this one from the Rio Grande National Forest. I bet this happens all over the west. Please comment and link to other articles if you know of them. Many people on this blog disagree on many things, hopefully this is something people can all get behind, a “Thing we Agree is Good”?.
By MATT HILDNER | firstname.lastname@example.org | 0 comments
BIG MEADOWS — In a region where the size of a home’s wood pile is no laughing matter, the U.S. Forest Service and a local nonprofit are teaming up to make sure those in need stay warm this winter.
Employees from the Rio Grande National Forest and volunteers with La Puente, a San Luis Valley charity, spent a day last week cutting and hauling wood from this campground near Wolf Creek Pass.
The wood, in the neighborhood of four cords, will be handed out through the charity’s utility assistance program to families whose homes are heated primarily with wood.
“It really helps us to keep people warm,” said volunteer Craig DenUyl after unloading an armful of wood.
A portion of that wood also will go to La Puente’s homeless shelter in Alamosa.
Keeping warm in the San Luis Valley is no small task.
Alamosa, which annually does battle with places such as Fraser and Gunnison for the coldest spot in the state, had three days earlier this month where it was the coldest spot in the lower 48 states, according to USA Today.
Many homes are heated with natural gas, but firewood remains a common source of fuel in the Valley.
Last year the Rio Grande sold permits for cutting of roughly 6,000 cords of wood.
The project also served a useful end for the Forest Service, which has undertaken thinning the insect-laden trees crammed into the campground.
“These are dead and dying trees that we knew were going to fall over eventually,” said Mike Blakeman, a public affairs officer for the Rio Grande National Forest.
The trees, which are in a stretch of forest that has been hit hard by spruce bark beetles and the western spruce budworm, represented a threat at Big Meadows, which is the busiest campground in the 1.9 million-acre national forest.
The agency’s volunteer coordinator Rob Santoro said the thinning work at the campground, which had included the cutting of the wood into small sections, made contributing it to charity an obvious choice.
“When I came out and saw it was all bucked up, it was a no-brainer,” he said.
Here’s a link to the new paper Sustainable Biofuel Contributions to Carbon Mitigation and Energy Independence
Here’s the UW news release.
Proposals to remove the carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuel from the atmosphere include letting commercially managed forests grow longer between harvests or not cutting them at all.
An article (http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4907/2/4/861/) published in the journal Forests says, however, that Pacific Northwest trees grown and harvested sustainably, such as every 45 years, can both remove existing carbon dioxide from the air and help keep the gas from entering the atmosphere in the first place. That’s provided wood is used primarily for such things as building materials instead of cement and steel – which require more fossil fuels in their manufacture – and secondarily that wood wastes are used for biofuels to displace the use of fossil fuels.
“When it comes to keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, it makes more sense to use trees to recycle as much carbon as we can and offset the burning of fossil fuel than it does to store carbon in standing forests and continuing burning fossil fuels,” said Bruce Lippke (http://www.cfr.washington.edu/SFRPublic/People/FacultyProfile.aspx?PID=11), University of Washington professor emeritus of forest resources. (http://www.cfr.washington.edu/)
Lippke is one of eight co-authors of the article in Forests. It is the first to comprehensively calculate using woody biomass for bioenergy in addition to using wood for long-lived products. The article focuses on the extra carbon savings that can be squeezed from harvesting trees if bioenergy is generated using wood not suitable for long-term building materials. Such wood can come from the branches and other debris left after harvesting, materials thinned from stands or from plantations of fast-growing trees like willow.
For the article, the co-authors looked at selected bioenergy scenarios using wood from the U.S. Pacific Northwest, Southeast and Northeast.
They considered two ways of producing ethanol from woody biomass – gasification and fermentation – and used what’s called life cycle analysis to tally all the environmental effects of gathering, processing and using the resulting fuels. Considering everything that goes into it and how it burns when used as fuel, the researchers found ethanol from woody biomass emits 70 percent to slightly more than 100 percent less greenhouse gases than producing and using the equivalent energy from gasoline.
Achieving slightly more than a 100 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is possible using fermentation during which ethanol is produced and enough electricity is generated to offset the fossil fuel used in the fermentation process.
In contrast, producing and using corn ethanol to displace gasoline reduces greenhouse gas emissions 22 percent on average, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s fact sheet (http://tinyurl.com/EPAFactSheetAltFuels) “Greenhouse Gas Impacts of Expanded Renewable and Alternative Fuels Use.”
While biofuels from woody biomass are carbon friendly, Lippke cautions that the U.S. should not use tax breaks or other incentives that inadvertently divert wood to bioenergy that is better used for long-lived building materials and furniture.
“Substituting wood for non-wood building materials can displace far more carbon emissions than using the wood for biofuel,” the article says. “This fact creates a hierarchy of wood uses that can provide the greatest carbon mitigation for each source of supply.”
Lippke said using wood for products and bioenergy can be considered carbon neutral because the carbon dioxide trees absorb while growing eventually goes back to the atmosphere when, for instance, wood rots after building demolition or cars burn ethanol made from woody debris. With sustainably managed forests, that carbon dioxide is then absorbed by the growing trees awaiting the next harvest.
The co-authors aren’t advocating that all forests be harvested, just the ones designated to help counter carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Older forests, for instance, provide ecological values even though they absorb less carbon dioxide as they age.
In the article the authors also urge policymakers and citizens to consider not just carbon mitigation but to also find ways to weigh the importance of energy independence from fossil fuels when considering how to use woody biomass for bioenergy.
“Simply burning woody biomass to generate heat or electricity makes sense for carbon mitigation, he says, but there’s no energy independence gained,” Lippke said.
Carbon efficiency is however only one part of the equation, the authors wrote. Transportation fuels depend heavily on imported oil and therefore biofuels that replace them make additional contributions to the domestic economy, including energy independence and rural economic development, the authors said.
Other co-authors are Richard Gustafson and Elaine Oneil with the UW, Richard Venditti with North Carolina State University, Timothy Volk with the State University of New York, Leonard Johnson with the University of Idaho, Maureen Puettmann of WoodLife Environmental Consultants and Phillip Steele with Mississippi State University.
The publication integrates findings across many previous reports generated by a consortium of 17 research institutions that have been involved in life cycle analysis of wood products for more than 15 years through the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (http://www.corrim.org/), based at the UW. The recent biofuel life cycle research was funded with a grant from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory.
China’s effect on the U.S. timber industry is a classic story of supply and demand, with winners and losers.
U.S. home building continues to lag far below pre-recession levels. Meanwhile, millions of new homes are being built in rapidly growing China, the largest foreign customer for Oregon timber.
Demand by China has driven up timber harvests and log prices, even though the domestic market for wood products is weak.
Since most of the timber bound for overseas leaves Oregon in the form of raw logs, rather than finished wood products, China has kept loggers working and benefited timberland owners. But it’s put the squeeze on mills.
“It’s a mixed blessing. It’s had a negative effect on our milling infrastructure, but it’s a positive for our loggers and landowners,” said Bob Ragon, executive director of Roseburg-based Douglas Timber Operators, a timber advocacy group.
Until a few weeks ago, ports almost couldn’t load ships fast enough to sate China’s appetite for logs. In the first half of this year, the West Coast exported nearly 1 billion board feet of logs, mostly to China. That was a 79 percent increase over the same period in 2010, U.S. Forest Service economists found.
Oregon supplied more than half the logs, a total of 518.5 million board feet. Industry veterans say the developing Chinese market brought on record log prices, sometimes almost double normal prices.
Today, exports to China are in a lull. But industry insiders expect the hiatus to be only temporary and for demand to rise again in the spring.
“I guess that’s what happens when you do business with China. In the past, China has been known to do this, jump in and jump out,” Ragon said.
The hot-and-cold Chinese market adds a new element of uncertainty to the ailing wood products industry, which can’t afford to compete with China for logs when plywood and two-by-fours aren’t selling at home.
The volatile Chinese market has left people questioning whether China will become a dependable customer as lawmakers court the Chinese to buy American.
State Rep. Tim Freeman, R-Roseburg, went to China with a delegation of Oregon lawmakers in September and said China’s “emerging economy and boom has created a situation where they’re consuming more than they can produce.”
He said Oregon’s annual exports to China total $4 billion, quadruple exports eight years ago, and are mostly made up of commodities from Intel and other high-tech companies.
Freeman said Oregon’s proximity to the Pacific Rim should make China a growing market. Freeman said the delegation didn’t discuss log exports with their hosts.
Ragon and others say the best-case scenario would be for the Chinese to buy finished wood products from Oregon mills.
Ragon said exporting manufactured wood products, instead of logs, would triple or quadruple employment throughout the industry.
For now though, far more of Oregon’s cut trees are exported as logs rather than finished products, by a ratio of 10 to 1.
Oregon Employment Department Regional Economist Brian Rooney reports that mill jobs outnumber logging jobs by three to one in Douglas County. The number mill jobs, however, is declining. Rooney said the booming export market drove a slight increase in logging jobs, but not enough to offset the loss of mill jobs.
Oregon State University Extension Service forestry agent Steve Bowers said high log prices particularly benefited landowners with stands of Sitka spruce, hemlock and white fir — trees not as coveted by mills as Douglas fir.
Bowers said China, which has different building needs, was indiscriminate in the wood it bought. China’s demand for all types of logs, however, naturally drove up the price for Douglas fir, too.
“Export was dictating the values for domestic buyers, and they did not like that,” he said.
The president and CEO of Lone Rock Timber Co., Toby Luther, said the Roseburg logging company sends less than 10 percent of its logs to exporters. But the statewide increase in logging was driven by China.
“The amount of harvest is up, and that’s not because of mills. It’s because of China,” Luther said. “My concern is that, China continues to buy up logs and makes mills less competitive in terms of accessing logs at a price they can afford.”
Luther said log prices are comparable to what they were during the building boom in 2004-05, but mills can’t justify paying those high prices because of low domestic sales.
When Glendale-based Swanson Group this month announced temporary shutdowns, beginning Monday, that will affect all four of its mills and 700 employees, company President Steve Swanson blamed the foreign competition for logs.
Jim Dudley, log procurement and marketing manager for Roseburg Forest Products, said RFP has experienced similar price pressure. Most West Coast manufacturers are suffering losses, he said.
Nevertheless, there is an upside for manufacturers. Dudley said the export market has sustained logging companies that wood products manufacturers will need when home building bounces back in the U.S.
“While (foreign competition) has been difficult to compete with on the manufacturing side, it has helped us protect our logging infrastructure. If we get any increase in domestic demand, it’s important to have that infrastructure,” he said.
Dudley and others in the logging industry say more federal logs, which can’t be exported, would ease the large price swings the Chinese market has caused.
Dudley said if logging on federal lands were increased to even one-fourth of what it was 20 years ago, before the spotted owl was listed as a threatened species, mills would have a steady supply of timber.
The ailing industry is almost entirely dependent on logging from private lands, he said.
According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, 75 percent of the state’s timber harvest occurs on private land, which makes up 38 percent of the state’s forests. Federal forests make up 59 percent of the resource and contribute 12 percent of the state’s timber production.
In Douglas County, private lands account for 44 percent of forestland and supplied 86 percent of the harvest in 2010. A majority of the county’s timberland, 54 percent, are on federal lands and produced 12 percent of the harvest.
“Now the onus has been put on private property to provide all the jobs for the Oregon forest industry,” Dudley said.
Environmentalists counter that the onus for providing wildlife habitat falls on federal lands.
“It seems to me that if the industry wants public logs, they have some responsibility to provide some habitat on their lands,” said Ken Carloni, president of Umpqua Watersheds, a Roseburg-based conservation group.
Carloni said only a lack of “cheap federal logs” was cramping domestic supply and suggested an export tax on raw logs could encourage China to purchase processed lumber instead.
“If it weren’t so attractive to ship the logs, then the domestic supply of logs would increase. Just as much fiber should be hitting those freighters and going overseas, it just should be square instead of round,” he said.
Industry leaders say unless there was a global agreement such a tax would drive the Chinese to buy logs from other countries, like Canada and Argentina.
“You put protectionist taxes on timber and you could tax your way right out of the market,” said Dave Stroble, Southwest Washington and Oregon region manager for Merrill & Ring, a Seattle-based log exporter.
Stroble said U.S. log exporters are in a wait-and-see period as the competitive Chinese market develops.
“The longer it lasts, the more it will mature. It could take years or decades to reach a level of stabilization that we’re used to over here, and it’s hard to speculate how this market is going to mature,” he said.