Quincy Sawmill To Close

Monday Sierra Pacific Industries announced the closure of its Quincy, CA, small-log sawmill. The company is unable to obtain enough timber to keep the mill running.

From the NY Times [here]

Logger withdraws from Calif. fire reduction effort

By Jessica Leber, ClimateWire, March 5, 2009

Environmental lawsuits have long made it difficult for Sierra Pacific Industries, the second-largest lumber producer in the United States, to obtain local timber for its small-log sawmill in the tiny Northern California town of Quincy.

This week, the flagging economy hit the final nail into the mill’s coffin: The company announced on Monday that it will close the plant in May.

The mill was conceived to use small-diameter logs from programs that thin trees on national forest lands for the purpose of reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

But due to a long series of administrative appeals and lawsuits from environmental groups that object to any commercial logging in national forests, the Forest Service has only achieved 20 percent of its overall sales targets, said Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI).

Nearly two-thirds of this year’s timber sale program is being held up by pending litigation, the company said. The result is that SPI has had to haul logs from farther away to run the mill and make up for the difference.

“Today’s lumber prices are not sufficient to cover these increased costs,” said the company in a statement. “To make things worse, environmental litigation has not only reduced the mill’s raw material supply, but also increased the risk of wildfires in the area.”

Small trees — a big problem in the area’s large forest fires — can’t be cut

Linda Blum of the Quincy Library Group, a group formed in an effort to reach a compromise between environmentalists and loggers to restore the health of the region’s forests, said the closure is symbolic of the difficulties in managing forest land to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires and benefit the community at the same time (ClimateWire, Sept. 18, 2008).

In 1998, five years after the group was founded, Congress passed the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act, which promoted tree thinning on national forest land to reduce the threat of wildfires while providing raw material for local timber companies. Sierra Pacific Industries began building the mill in Quincy even before the act was officially passed. …

In the Winter 2009 issue of California Forests [here] Linda Blum wrote:

A handful of activists in partnership with Santa Monica-based Environment Now have filed administrative appeals on nearly every HFQLG project. They have gone to court to stop many. Though their objections are couched as wildlife concerns, it seems their real goal is to kill off the timber industry. …

Case in point: last May the Ninth Circuit Court enjoined the USFS Plumas National Forest from implementing pilot thinning projects called for in the 1998 Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act [here]. The victorious plaintiffs were Sierra Forest Legacy, formerly known as Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign, the Center For Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Society [here].

Then last summer the Canyon Complex and Rich Bar Fires [here, here] burned a combined 44,000 acres of the Plumas NF (at a suppression cost of $58. 7 million). In 2007 the Moonlight Fire burned 65,714 acres in Plumas County.

Linda Blum mentions Environment Now [here]. That foundation spends the fortune accumulated by the late Frank G. Wells, a Hollywood lawyer and President and Chief Operating Officer of the Walt Disney Company [here]. Kevin Wells is President of Environment Now, Luanne Wells and Rob Wells are on the Board of Directors, and Rob is also the Finance Director. Environment Now funds Sierra Forest Legacy, the Center For Biological Diversity, the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology (FUSEE), ForestEthics, Earth Island Institute, the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Sequoia ForestKeeper, and Sierra Forest legacy, among other enviro groups. All those mentioned are lawyered up, litigation-happy, frequent suers of the USFS.

Bambi money goes to sue the blue blazes out the USFS in order to halt logging on public lands, and thereby promote catastrophic wildfires, the kind that killed Bambi’s mother. Ironic, isn’t it?

Hollywood types don’t like forest management, but they are radically in favor of forest holocaust.

The lawsuits promulgated by Environment Now vassals typically are based on (faux) concern for wildlife, such as spotted owls. Ironically (again) the holocausts kill spotted owls and destroy their habitat, whereas the thinnings that get enjoined would protect and maintain that habitat.

The Quincy mill closure is not unique. Over 1,500 sawmills have closed in the Pacific Northwest since imposition of “unmanagement” either directly by Congress or indirectly via endless, sabotage-intended litigation. The sawmill industry has been largely destroyed, along with millions of acres of incinerated forests, and now there are very few purchasers of Fed timber sales (what few sales make it through the litigation gauntlet).

From the ClimateWire report:

“If the Forest Service gets around to start really offering projects, it [the Quincy plant closure] calls into question whether or not there’s going to be someone to utilize the material,” said Blum.

Environmentalists, however, blamed the Quincy mill closure squarely on the tanking housing construction market. “They [SPI] chose to scapegoat the environmental community as being the reason for the bulk of their problems,” said Craig Thomas, executive director of Sierra Forest Legacy, a group that has challenged many Forest Service thinning projects through regulatory appeals and lawsuits.

He also said that environmental groups had no choice but to sue, since, over the last five years, the Bush administration refused to engage them in a dialogue about exactly how small a “small-diameter” tree really was and where larger trees should be removed to reduce wildfire risk. Today, he said, he is working with President Obama’s new team, and discussions are moving toward a compromise on the design of projects that would allow them to proceed.

So Hollywood Craig had no choice but to sue, because the President of the United States wouldn’t kowtow to him. But the situation is all better now, because B.H. Obama is going to dictate forest harvest rules based on Hollywood Craig’s specs.

Is there no end to the conceit displayed by the Tinsel Town Lunatic Left?

Why should or would anyone (including the current POTUS) pay the slightest heed to some deep-pocket, sue-happy, Hollywood nimrod who knows exactly nothing about forests, forestry, wildlife, or fire? Why are our forests and forest-based communities at the mercy of these people?

6 Mar 2009, 8:14am
by ESP

The irony of it. The ultimate experiment of “cooperation” with environmentalist failed. This is because they have no incentive to cooperate. Until Congress does something to limit their ability to file lawsuits or administrative appeals to their heart’s content, environmentalists (who financially benefit from litigation) will continue to use and abuse the system. And the forests will continue to burn. And people will keep losing their jobs.

6 Mar 2009, 2:36pm
by quincy

Let’s be clear: the QLG’s environmental component is still cooperating and working toward full implementation of the Pilot Project. That experiment has not failed.

What has failed is the Forest Service’s resolve to do their best work and then defend it vigorously. The enviro lawsuits merely provide the internal no-commercial-logging Forest Service folks with political cover to undermine the agency’s ability to manage forests.

The writer who strung together the QLG story bits with the stated goals of Environment Now’s forest program has it exactly right, except for one thing: Craig isn’t from Hollywood, only his non-profit NGO funding comes from there. Craig lives in the Sierra foothills — when he’s not back east negotiating secretly with the new administration over what forestry should be practiced on national forests.

I sure hope Obama is as open to dissenting voices as he claims.

The other thing missed in the article above is that the one common element in (1) all the litigation against SPI’s timber harvest plans, (2) the Environment Now-backed suits against the Sierra Nevada Framework and HFQLG projects, and also (3) the State of California’s initial efforts to allow only forest trusts to participate in carbon markets under AB32: Mary Nichols, longtime board member of Environment Now as well as head of the Air Resources Board. I don’t know where she got her economic and ecological training, but many of her actions in the last 20 years have been toward driving private timberlands back into non-consumptive -use public ownership.

But having said all that, dear readers, as abusive of the courts as the enviro suits have been, I do not agree that public appeals & suits should be Congressionally curtailed. We might need to use those tools someday… and it might be soon.

The same folks who have sued over NEPA nitpicks in the 2004 Sierra Framework have been talking consistently about reinstating the 2001 Framework as the remedy. I have every reason to believe that’s what they’ve been lobbying the new Administration for. They seem to believe that NEPA would not apply to require a new SEIS and a new appeal opportunity for those who disagree and/or are harmed by reinstating the 2001 Framework.

Just a heads up: we might need to grab the obstructionists’ favorite laws and use them ourselves soon.

6 Mar 2009, 3:26pm
by Mike


The writer is me, Mike Dubrasich, Exec Dir W.I.S.E. It is not my intention to hide in anonymity, just that it seems a trifle much to sign everything.

I am a big supporter of the QLG and wish you every success, (which IMHO should have been achieved years ago but hasn’t through no fault of the QLG).

The USFS needs a re-commitment to their mission. That agency has faltered, of that there is no doubt. I don’t believe that internal obstructionists dominate, however, and even if they do, some sort of pro-stewardship mutiny is seething under the surface. The coming socio-economic collapse may drive the necessary changes.

6 Mar 2009, 8:40pm
by bear bait

Yeah, Mike… QLG sitting with the Environmental Taliban to negotiate a settlement the Taliban has zero intentions of living up to is what this has been about. And time drags on. Time is on the Environmental Taliban’s side. They are just stringing this deal along until the capitalists run out of money. And that ain’t too far away…

The USFS is social engineering agency, and has been for 30 or more years. They have NOT been about land management, but about how to integrate socialist goals in hiring (dumbing down by not requiring “minorities” to have academic credentials for the jobs they hold), by dictating agency mores to the community in which they lay, and by reducing resource use to non-economic levels, and then claiming it is too expensive to keep those programs, that it costs more to sell timber than the timber is worth… and who can’t do that if they tried? Anyone can do a poor job but only the USFS can do a poor job and get praise for their ineptitude. The QLG is well intentioned people sitting down with transient government hacks who set them up to fail because that is what the left in Congress, and now the White House wants from the deal.

Again, we have a lawyer President, and lawyers to run our lives, and lawyers to create and enforce policy, all for the benefit of lawyers, forever. The political perpetual motion machine. The effort was a waste, and since we know that all the powers that be want is for it to burn, let the damned thing burn as many times as possible. It is California, after all, and if it happens in California, it must be the right thing to do. lol.

7 Mar 2009, 9:18am
by John M.

It is ironic that in all of this arguing about cutting trees, the reason for the establishment of the national forests is either forgotten or ignored. The national forests were not established for the benefit of a few, but for the benefit of many. The mission, simply stated, was to provide a sustained yield of renewable resources for the use of all of the public, and for the protection of resources from destruction and abuses.

The continuing guerrilla warfare in the Sierras is not, in my opinion, about saving trees, but a social change to shut down a portion of the US industrial base. If the issue was truly about saving trees, wildlife, or watersheds, the QLG effort would not be constantly challenged. It has also been observed that part of this warfare is a power struggle to keep local people from gaining too much power in choosing how to live in their home areas.

California is facing water shortages, even without the drought, of a gigantic magnitude, but the burning of watersheds seems of no importance to those who would stop forest management. The loss of jobs is devastating families, but closing a mill creating various forest products, not just lumber, is of no concern to the anti management people. Lost wildlife and fishery habitat is also no big deal. Then there is the use of taxpayer money to carry out this anti program. A large part of the money financing this effort is, I suspect, from some form of tax deductable donation or indirectly from forcing the federal agencies to pick up a large part of the tab in various ways.

It is so sad to see the land and the people living on it treated like this, when better alternatives are possible. I would hope those continually blocking good management of the land and the well-being of communities will leave their names for future generations to know who to blame as they try to pick up the pieces.

7 Mar 2009, 1:16pm
by Larry H.

I’ve worked on QLG Forests and it is complicated with two vectors to follow in forest management. I’m convinced of a level of dissatisfaction in having to follow QLG directives and guidelines which can be surprisingly ridiculous. In the first place, QLG projects have to be area-based to sell whatever product is harvested in project units.

My most recent experience was working on a program of patch-cuts not to exceed 2 acres each. Additionally, within those patch-cuts, the Sierra Nevada Framework and CASPO guidelines still require 30″ dbh diameter limits. (Eco’s call these “virtual clearcuts”, because the Forest Service cuts every merchantable tree in the 2-acre unit it can legally cut.) While these projects supply a sustainable amount of timber, the actual harvesting is very costly and the bidding on such projects will reflect those difficult logging costs.

I’ve worked on many of those Ranger Districts and seen good and bad Timber Management staffs. Granted, they’ve been hamstrung with the social-employment engineering and changes in how “temporary employees” are used.

Eco-lawyers litigate for their living. With environmental rules changing so fast, it is easy to trip up the Forest Service when the details slip through the cracks from concept, analysis, to document and then implementation on to the ground. Any attempt to streamline and simplify the process will bring out the elitist, die-hard preservationists.

7 Mar 2009, 1:59pm
by Mike

Defensible Fuel Profile Zones seem to me to be a good idea. They sometimes work. But overall, I would like to see the QLG move towards true restoration forestry.

Restoration involves some commercial harvest but the principal output and goal is ecologically-sensitive fire resiliency and the protection, maintenance, and perpetuation of forests.

Restoring historical stand densities and structures together with frequent, seasonal, controlled fire is, in effect, restoration of the historical forest development pathways that led to old-growth.

All the palaver and argument about tree diameters is way off target. It’s the wrong thing to get hung up on. Do real restoration and the damn diameters won’t matter. It’s about ecology, not tree size!!!!!!!

The inevitable consequence of ignoring restoration forestry and instead engaging in a stupid argument about tree diameters is catastrophic immolation of all forest values.

It is NOT an engineering problem; it’s a biology problem. Forests are biological. The fire community is totally clueless about that. They have no concept that forests and fire have a biological basis. The timber community ought not to fall into the same trap.

7 Mar 2009, 4:20pm
by quincy

So would QLG like to move towards restoration forestry!

Some of our DFPZs (e.g., Hwy 89 on Tahoe NF, many other eastside pine sites) and aspen and black oak projects have achieved a big step in the restoration direction. Our 5-year DFPZ-landscape-triage strategy was supposed to transition to area treatments with more restoration of forest stand species, structures, and age classes as the longer term goal.

Some of us now believe that our restoration target conditions should be more like the forests of 1350 AD than 1850 AD, based upon climate change and average temperature projections.

7 Mar 2009, 4:29pm
by quincy

Re John M’s comment above, “It has also been observed that part of this warfare is a power struggle to keep local people from gaining too much power in choosing how to live in their home areas,” rings true for the QLG experience in dealing with with both the national and foundation-led local enviro organizations and also with the USFS.

Part of this warfare is a power struggle to keep public land management decisions in Washington, inside the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, and the Forest Service.

7 Mar 2009, 4:57pm
by Mike

There are many good reasons for selecting references conditions earlier than 1850.

One thing we know is that anthropogenic fire was a key influence prior to 1850, and more so the deeper into the past we look. Human beings have been stewarding forests for a very long time. The Feather River region has been home to people for 10,000 years or more. The First Residents used fire as land management tool.

Frequent, seasonal, light burning fires helped to preclude infrequent catastrophic fires by keeping the fuel levels low. The anthropogenic fires thus favored open and park-like stands with trees that lived to very old ages.

Absent the human tending fires, dense thickets have arisen and catastrophic fires are the modern norm. Severe fires kill all the trees, and so alter forest development pathways such that trees do NOT live to old ages.

The only way to protect, maintain, and perpetuate old-growth is through active management designed to recreate historical forest development pathways, i.e. restoration forestry.

The enviro-litigious crowd really ought to get a handle on the whys and hows of restoration forestry. By hampering and impeding active management they are helping to destroy the very thing that they purport to be “protecting.”

7 Mar 2009, 5:31pm
by quincy

Amen, sorry to say. We’ve had so many pyrocumulus smoke columns since 1999, I can make an intelligent guess as to the number of acres going up at a time, by what 8,000 acres of firestorm looks like in plume-form from 15 miles away. I have compared my personal photos with daily incident reports to try to calibrate my eye.

If I could find an attach button, I’d send time lapse smoke column photos taken from my bedroom window of the Stream, Boulder Complex, Antelope Complex, and Moonlight Fires — over 100,000 acres in the same watershed since 2001. Nah, you’ve seen the same or worse in Oregon.

7 Mar 2009, 8:05pm
by Bob Z.

The August 24, 1933 Tillamook Fire in western Oregon formed a mushroom cloud 40-miles wide and nine miles high, generating hurricane-force winds in the process. That’s what a smoke plume looks like when 220,000 acres of old-growth blow up in a single day.

The people who design 2-acre patchcuts with 30″ diameter limits are nuts. No “virtual” about it. Ignorance is no longer an excuse — where in the hell do they ever get the economic and political clout to even get such mindless crap discussed for an hour, much less implemented into written contracts?

Where do they find the nitwits to go through with it? Why aren’t these people being fired en masse for documented incompetency?

Social engineering might be one excuse, but sheer idiocy shouldn’t be part of the “diversity” equation. How is this even happening? What an embarrassment for the USFS and for our Forestry schools.

Reply: easy there, Bob. It is reasonable to attack the practices, but broad brush ad hominem attacks on the individuals who are trapped by rules and regulations is a little over the line. — Mike

7 Mar 2009, 8:49pm
by Bob Z.


These people aren’t “trapped.” They suck up millions of tax-payer dollars to manage our resources, yet end up playing mindless word games with Enviros and their lawyers. They could quit, hire legitimate scientists to perform legitimate challenges, or at least file minority opinions.

There are ethics involved. Calling idiotic behavior and embarrassing actions “idiotic” and “embarrassing” should not be construed as an ad hominem attack. It is stating the obvious, and based on dictionary defintions.

My question remains: How do these nitwits get away with it? Don’t taxpayers deserve an honest day’s work for an honest paycheck?

8 Mar 2009, 12:36pm
by Larry H.

I know that portion of Highway 89 VERY well, in the Tahoe National Forest. That is one area which should be showcased as a modern example of restoration forestry. Using all the tools in a modern forester’s toolbox, the Highway 89 corridor south of Sierraville is much more natural and resilient to drought and fires.

Back in ‘97, I worked on a service contract which removed sub-merchantable trees along that stretch. A few years later, prescribed fires cleared off the rest of the brush, leaving a healthier and more natural stand of eastside pines. These types of forests are at extreme risk to wildfires, with the 80,000 acre Cottonwood Fire still dominating the Sierraville Ranger District.

These RD’s aren’t going to turn down the extra QLG money, even if it means jumping through some significant hoops. QLG projects aren’t really based on solid science. This is a compromise between all the stakeholders in the area. The Plumas National Forest has endured considerable eco-litigation in the form of Chad Hanson and his eco-lawyer wife. He even fights against the removal of hazard trees along paved roads, and wins!

5 Apr 2009, 8:51pm
by Larry H.

SPI is closing another mill. The Standard big log mill, near Sonora, California, is closing in July, leaving only one big log mill left in the lower 2/3’s of California. That Sierra Forest Products mill, near Porterville, is also teetering on the brink. The Chinese Camp small log mill close by will remain open.

Haul distances to the next big log mill in Lincoln will increase to more than 3 hours each way. SPI is notorious for lowballing the gyppo drivers they depend upon and many have chosen to park their rigs instead of caving in to their cutthroat tactics. While SPI has increased their log truck fleet, they have problems recruiting and keeping drivers.

Another nail in the coffin??!?

5 Apr 2009, 8:54pm
by Larry H.

Oops…coffins will not need nails soon. Coffins will now be made of straw and adobe, instead.

5 Apr 2009, 9:08pm
by Larry H.

Digging further, I’m seeing that the Camino small log mill is also closing soon. Apparently, those mills won’t be dismantled in hopes that the situation might change. I’d imagine they could re-open when a large catastrophic fire and salvage project comes along. However, SOI knows very well how even dead tree salvage is considered an eco-sin by extremist groups who sue.



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