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|Articles - June 2014|
|Thursday, May 29, 2014|
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BY LEE VAN DER VOO
Last mill standing. On its face, the resurrection of the Rough & Ready Lumber Company in Cave Junction looks like a single turn of luck in a small town — a win for the last remaining mill.
But what’s happening at the Illinois Valley mill also signals a shift in timber management in Oregon. And it took more than just luck. Interest and funding from the governor’s office is being credited with the resurrection, along with a partnership between mill owners and the money-savvy nonprofit Ecotrust. The secret sauce, however, is the involvement of the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative, which helped reshape the face of timber harvesting and overcome a key obstacle to mill production: environmental opposition to timber sales. It’s a recipe state leaders aim to keep mixing.
“We’re hopeful. It’s a different day,” says Tom Tuchmann, the forest conservation and finance advisor for Gov. John Kitzhaber. He describes how a focus on forest restoration and thinning, especially where decades of fire suppression have spurred overgrowth, has set the table for mill rescues of this kind. With input from traditional tough-on-timber opponents, the collaborative crafted a timber-sourcing plan that enabled the mill to maintain capacity by retooling to process smaller logs more efficiently.
Strange bedfellows. The Illinois Valley isn’t the place you might expect such agreement. Famous for its timber wars, it was once home to 35 mills. The community of 10,000 is also dotted with artists and musicians, environmentalists and off-grid dwellers. When the spotted owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990, advocacy lawsuits halted federal timber sales and shuttered many mills, redefining the economy. Roughly 80% of timber in this area is federally owned. Private timber sales brought some supply, but production costs soared as logs were sourced farther away.
The Rough & Ready mill cut back one shift in 1990 as a result of those pressures, thinning workers from 225 to 175. Another shift was cut later to combat rising costs as supply remained scarce. After several years of deferring capital improvements and losing a key source of private logs, the mill’s third-generation owners, Jennifer Phillippi and her husband, Link, ruefully told their remaining 88 employees the mill would close last April.
“The day we had to meet with them, and tell them and look at their faces was just devastating,” Phillippi says. “I knew that they had counted on us.”
A collaborative solution. The mill offered severance pay and began working with state and federal officers on employment benefits, and with a local office that hosted classes and meetings for workers. That effort cued the attention of state and congressional leaders, who began calling the Phillippis as they hunted for a mill buyer and talked to auctioneers about worst-case scenarios. Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Greg Walden, Rep. Peter DeFazio and the governor’s office all offered help, and have since made efforts to restart federal timber sales.
The governer’s office contracted with the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative to find 10 million board feet in thinned timber annually, and within two hours of the mill. That available supply would help leverage financing to update the mill to an
“We have a letter from Fish and Wildlife saying, ‘Hey, we like the strategy. It works for us,’” says George McKinley, executive director of the collaborative. He described how the endangered species listing for the spotted owl and concern about salmon habitat have made it otherwise difficult for federal agencies to say yes to timber sales.
Their blessing is important — 80% of the timber in the Illinois Valley is owned by the federal government through either the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service. Those forests produce 1 billion board feet of timber a year. Yet less than 1% is harvested annually because of habitat concerns and efforts to avoid controversial timber sales. Thus, half of that timber is dying instead.
“That’s a pretty striking number,” says Phillippi. “And what we’re seeing are these massive wildfires that are taking care of that growth naturally.”
Friday, November 14, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY
Oregon entrepreneurs reveal their favorite caffeine hangouts.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Seven tidbits about the president and CEO of AKT Group.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
BY APRIL STREETER
Democratic gains pave the way for a revival of environment and labor bills as revenue reform languishes.
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
A conversation with attorney Erich Merrill about the latest way to raise money from large groups of people.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
BY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR
The implosion of the energy complex: The best thing for low oil prices is low oil prices.
Thursday, December 04, 2014
BY DEBRA RINGOLD | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
How important are institutional and/or program evaluations provided by third parties in selecting a college or university program?
Friday, October 31, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
Why are there so few transportation startups in Portland? The city’s leadership in bike, transit and pedestrian transportation has been well-documented. But that was then — when government and nonprofits paved the way for a new, less auto centric way of life.
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