31 Oct 2008, 11:08pm
Latest Forest News
by admin

Markets fall, trees don’t, raising risk of wildfires

Michelle Roberts, the Oregonian, October 26, 2008 [here]

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest managers are concerned as the housing construction market continues to stagnate.

The decreased demand for wood products means that mills are struggling, and in some cases closing. Without them, says Steve Ellis, the forest supervisor for the past four years, forests, already at a high risk for wildfires, could become even more dense.

Q: How is the timber industry affected by the troubled housing and construction market?

A: What we’re seeing here in northeast Oregon is that some (timber) sales this year went without bid. That is very unusual. Within the Blue Mountain Forest this last fiscal year, there were several timber sales in which no one came to bid. Last year in Wallowa-Whitman, we had to repackage one sale to make it go. The other thing is that the price that we’re getting is less this past year. In September, one (timber sale) went for just the appraised price. Nothing more.

Q: What does it mean for the mills?

A: The mills, economically speaking, are struggling. This year, two mills in our area have stopped operating, including Wallowa Forest Products and, more recently, a mill in Prairie City. I find that troubling because we depend on mills to cut down trees to help us manage these forests. To do active forest management, we need this infrastructure. The mills need us, and we need them.

Q: Without mills willing to come and thin the forests, is it difficult to keep forests healthy?

A: Absolutely. When we want to do active forest management these days, we do selective cutting and thinning. Clear-cuts are a thing of the past. So as time goes on, you get forests that are very densely stocked, and that provides fuel for these wildfires.

Dense forests can also be more susceptible to beetle infestation. Then you get into a cycle where the beetles kill the trees, then lightening strikes and burns up the dead trees. It’s like nature rebooting. Fire is natural in the forest. It’s been here for as long as you’ve had forests. What you have now is that we have more people who are living in and amongst the forest.

We have more of this wild land/urban interface in a system where fire is natural. And because of this, we can’t let it burn.

As a result, suppressing wildfires gets more expensive every year and takes a larger portion of our budget every year. We were at a point this summer where the Forest Service is spending $10 million a day suppressing fires across the country. It could have been worse, but in the Pacific Northwest, we had a rather quiet fire season.

Q: What other impacts is the death of mills having on rural Oregon foresting communities?

A: (A mill) will come in, they’ll bid and part of the receipts of the sale go to the county. So that means that now the county is losing those receipts, which they need for roads, schools and infrastructure. So there’s a loss. The other thing is part of those funds come back to the forest. So we lose those revenue sources. And with forest fires eating up so much of our budget these days, it doesn’t leave much.

Q: Are you praying the economy recovers quickly so that you can get your trees thinned properly?

A: (Laughs) Yes, I hope the economy comes back for more reasons than that. We do need the infrastructure of the mills. But we also need a healthy economy for more reasons than that. There are so many people hurting today as a result, it goes well beyond healthy forest on the WW.



web site

leave a comment

  • For the benefit of the interested general public, W.I.S.E. herein presents news clippings from other media outlets. Please be advised: a posting here does not necessarily constitute or imply W.I.S.E. agreement with or endorsement of any of the content or sources.
  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent News Clippings

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta