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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, May 26, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Spring rains are the bane of an Oregon cherry farmer’s existence. Even a few sprinkles can crack the fruit so badly it’s not worth picking. Science to the rescue: Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a spray-on film that cuts rain-related cracking in half, potentially saving a season’s crop. The coating, patented as SureSeal, is made from natural chemicals similar to those found in the skins of cherries: cellulose, palm oil-based wax and calcium.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY HANNAH WALLACE
Travelers have always come to Oregon for its natural beauty. But will the increasing popularity of agritourism, European-style hiking getaways and forest resorts relax Oregon's notoriously strict land-use laws?
Friday, June 05, 2015
As temperatures in Oregon creep into the 90s this weekend, Oregonians' thoughts are turning to — summer baseball.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR
An earthquake would completely destroy many Oregon businesses, highlighting the urgent need for the private and public sectors to collaborate on shoring up disaster preparedness, said panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast summit today.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT
How conservation stimulates the local economy.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Fireworks are a booming industry, even if the pyrotechnics have turned July 4th into a day fire marshals, and many residents, love to hate.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE
The right sunglasses can protect your eyes and look cool at the same time. This being the 21st century, select shades are socially conscious, too. Portland brand Shwood uses wood and other natural materials and manufactures locally. Founded by Ann Sacks, the brand Fetch dedicates a portion of its profits to animal welfare. But whether you choose classic tortiseshell or aviator chic, please, shed the sunglasses when you walk in the door — and, of course, at night.
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