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|Tuesday, January 01, 2008|
Real estate versus working timberland: Which will timber companies, and Oregonians, choose?
By Abraham Hyatt
Oregon may have some of the most restrictive land-use laws in the nation when it comes to forestland, but Andrew Miller, president and CEO of Portland-based Stimson Lumber, is willing to make a wager: Sell a 40-acre plot from the 170,000 acres of working forestland that Stimson manages in the state, and then hire a good land-use lawyer.
It’s a challenge that has less to do with the strength of the laws governing that land and more to do with what has become perhaps the most powerful issue the timber industry is facing. According to the Department of Forestry, about 10% of the state’s private timberland sits inside urban growth boundaries or development zones. Thanks to demand from the state’s fast-growing population, the land around urban areas suddenly has more value as real estate than as forestland — sometimes three times as much.
“There is a growing economic incentive to fragment land and sell off the pieces,” Miller says. “It’s not healthy in an economic sense or for the ecology or the environment but it’s driving people [in the industry] to look for value outside of selling trees.”
Is that working forestland worth more to the public as much-cherished woodlands or as something else? And if it’s forest, who will pay to keep it that way if it’s worth more as real estate?
The Department of Forestry, industry groups and foresters are looking at different solutions, including conservation easements and tax incentives. U.S. Senators Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden and others are looking at different ways to increase the amount of timber harvested on federal lands, which would help buoy the industry as a whole.
Dale Riddle is senior vice president of legal affairs at Eugene-based Seneca Jones Timber, which manages about 166,000 acres of forestland in western Oregon. He argues the two biggest challenges are the trade relationship with Canada, which subsidizes its timber industry, and the restrictive U.S. federal timber policy.
In the 1980s timber from federal lands made up 50% to almost 60% of Oregon’s annual harvest. Since then the federal government has cut back logging following legal battles over endangered species habitat and management practices; timber from federal lands now makes up less than 10% of the state’s annual harvest. That puts most of the state’s timber production on private lands and creates a fire risk on overgrown federal lands.
Plum Creek, the nation’s largest private landholder, has run up against controversy for its use of its timberland. In Washington, Maine and Montana, Plum Creek has sold land to developers or is actively developing resorts and housing developments on 100,000-plus acre parcels of its own timberland. Most famously, the company — which did not respond to requests for an interview for this story — also filed, and then withdrew, Oregon’s largest Measure 37 claim. The claim would have given Plum Creek the ability to develop 32,000 acres of the 372,000 acres of forestland it owns in the state.
That kind of land sales or development by REITs could have an impact on the state’s smaller, privately held timber companies, especially if those big companies are harvesting timber or selling land based on stockholder demands rather than on a long-term plans. As Geisinger points out, “When you’ve got an accountant managing forests, that’s not always the best forestry.”
The value of that land is multifold: jobs, rural economies, supporting industries, habitat, biodiversity, water, carbon sequestration (the natural process of trees removing and storing carbon dioxide, which plays a major role in global warming, from the atmosphere). But to save that land, the timber industry can’t be the only advocate, Donegan says.
“It’s got to be the conservation community who identifies the value of working forests,” he says. “Conservationists need to stand up as a third party and say, ‘This is a crisis.’”
UNTIL THE PAST FEW decades, the intersection of logging and residential growth has had little impact on the timber industry. Conservation efforts from outside the industry played a minor role as well. The biggest force that shaped the industry was federal forests.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY BRANDON SAWYER
The 100 Best Companies get more creative with perks and more generous with benefits; employees seek empowering relations with management and coworkers.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Today the real estate cycle is on the move. For those who want cheap entertainment, there is no shortage of holes in the ground (with modern-day steam shovels) to peer into. So bring your lunch and watch the city grow.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
BY HANNAH WALLACE | OB BLOGGER
I’m thrilled that Portland’s restaurants are thriving. But who are these people who can afford to dine out several nights a week? They can’t all work for Adidas, Intel, or Nike—or some new tech start-up or innovation consultancy firm.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
BY BRANDON SAWYER
In this age of jobless recovery, workers have increasingly turned to part-time work in lieu of a full-time job, often cobbling together two or more jobs in order to make ends meet.
Friday, February 14, 2014
BY MIKE GREEN | OB BLOGGER
Oregon Business speaks with Patrick Quinton, executive director of the Portland Development Commission, about tech startups, equity and community impact.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
BY SOPHIA BENNETT
There is one bright spot in Oakridge’s economy: tourism, specifically its growing reputation as a major destination for mountain biking.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Our 100 Best Companies project turned 21 this year, so pop open the Champagne. Our latest survey gives us plenty to cheer.
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