Timber industry split on size of logs in BLM auction

Timber industry split on size of logs in BLM auction | | The Bulletin.

By The Associated Press

Published: September 14. 2012 

MEDFORD — A timber sale in Southern Oregon has put industry officials into two camps — one representing bigger companies that want bigger logs to cut, and another backing local mills that would be happy to have smaller logs.

The Portland-based American Forest Resource Council, which supports larger logs in the sale, has filed an administrative protest against the auction being conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Medford Mail Tribune reported Thursday.

The local Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association, while acknowledging the objections, says the sale of smaller logs is what local mills need.

The bureau has limited potential bidders for the 6.75 million board feet to companies qualified by the Small Business Administration. The thinning project was designed to incorporate ideas of forest ecology professors.

The protest by the council involves the sales process and other issues. It was addressed to John Raby, manager of the bureau’s Butte Falls Resource Area. He said it wouldn’t stop the auction. The Portland group could make an appeal to a departmental board.

The sale includes forest restoration thinning on 479 acres and is part of an ecological forestry project covering about 2,200 acres that could ultimately produce 20 million board feet, BLM officials said.

The American Forest Resource Council supports more federal timberlands becoming available for harvest, said vice president Ann Forest Burns. But, she said, the sale known as Vine Maple violates such provisions as the district resource management plan.

“I understand where they are coming from,” said Dave Schott, executive vice president of the Southern Oregon group. He said the timber industry generally believes that the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan hasn’t produced the logs expected.

However, he said, no mills in Jackson and Josephine counties cut large-scale trees anymore, so the trees in the Vine Maple sale, which average 15.9 inches in diameter at chest height, would be just about right for local mills.

“Mills here are desperate for federal timber,” he said. “I laud the BLM’s efforts.”

The sale incorporates many of the concepts that forest ecology professor Jerry Franklin at the University of Washington and Norm Johnson, his counterpart at Oregon State University, have included in pilot timber projects under way in southwestern Oregon.

George Sexton, conservation director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, an environmental watchdog group based in Ashland, said he hoped the objections don’t ultimately make a purchase less likely.

“I’m hoping the big boys in the industry don’t scare the little ones off,” he said.

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