Appeals stifle timber industry

March 09, 2008 11:00 pm

To the editor:

The final decision for the Thorn Fire Salvage Recovery Project will be announced on Wednesday. Thinking about this upcoming decision leads me to wonder who is actually controlling Grant County's economic future and that of our industries.

Most people know that Grant Western Lumber is shut down and Prairie Wood Products is running only one shift. While it is true that markets are terrible, we've always been able to find the right mix of efficiencies to keep running during the tough times.

What's different today is that because of appeals, litigation and gridlock, we have almost no timber volume under contract means we have little flexibility to respond to changing marked conditions.

Coupled with the high cost of energy, we're caught in a squeeze just like all the other businesses in Grant and Harney counties.

A lot of people are looking forward to the Thorn project to provide a needed shot in the arm for the economy. I sure hope they are right.

In order to really make a difference, the Forest Service should select Alternative 2, which allows the greatest salvage of dead and dying timber. This alternative would treat approximately 3,200 of the 14,527 acres burned. In Alternative 2, special considerations were made to avoid inventoried roadless areas, to protect water quality, to preserve woodpecker habitat and to avoid old-growth areas.

Despite all these safeguards, it is unlikely that Alternative 2 will be selected. Why? Because those with the least at stake in the outcome are the most likely to appeal and sue.

The tactic is intimidation. The goal is to shut down public timber sales, and eventually the mills in Grant County, just as in Harney, Baker, Morrow, Wheeler and other Eastern Oregon communities.

The tactic works because local decisionmakers get zero support from the Regional Office for making the right decisions for the long-term health of the forest and for the long-term economic health of the community.

People who have an honest stake in the outcomes stand up for better decisions, a better day for Grant and Harney county is a long way off.

Don Bodewig

Prairie City

Eastern Oregon regional manager

DR Johnson Lumber Co.