Mid-sized sawmills face possible closures
March 30, 2016
Viking Lumber and other small and mid-sized sawmill operations are expressing concern about the Forest Service’s plan to expedite the transition to a young growth timber industry. The transition plan as announced by Secretary Vilsack in 2013 would terminate the harvest of mature trees and expedite the cutting of second growth trees that need to grow for another 30 to 40 years; with a promise to maintain an integrated wood products industry, continue to provide jobs and help sustain communities in Southeast Alaska.
“Viking Lumber has about a year and a half of economical timber left to process.” Bryce Dahlstrom, Vice President of Transportation for Viking Lumber stated. “After that we are closing our doors unless more economic timber is sold by the Forest Service.”
Southeast Conference (SEC) a non-profit organization dedicated to the economic health of Southeast Alaska, gathered in Juneau March 15 & 16, 2016 for the Mid-Session Summit membership meeting. One of the subjects discussed at this meeting was the possible collapse of the Southeast Alaska timber industry.
“SEC has long been an advocate for resource development especially the timber industry and hearing this disturbing statement from our last remaining mid-size sawmill owner is devastating. We are asking the Forest Service to delay the transition and offer immediate bridge timber contracts to save our industry.” Said Shelly Wright, SE Conference Executive Director
Dahlstrom went on to say that he is in despair over this decision to leave southeast because of the effect to the community he grew up in. Approximately 150 jobs will be lost including road builders, cutters, loggers, truckers and marine transportation. Viking Lumber accounts for about 60% of AP&T, the local electric provider, revenue along with contributing to local companies and franchises such as Napa, Petro Marine, Shuab Ellison, Tyler Rental and Alaska Commercial. For communities on Prince of Wales Island, 150 jobs is a major industry.
Alcan Timber, a major employer in the industry working in Ketchikan, Zarembo Island and Hecata Island is also foreseeing operations ceasing to exist in Southeast because of insufficient supply. With the State of Alaska’s budget crisis, the delays in the Alaska Mental Health Trust land exchange, and the inability, or lack of desire, of the Forest service to meet market demands there appears to be no economical timber for the industry to survive.
Sealaska also issued a statement saying “Sealaska’s goal for a smaller sustainable cut from its timberlands is to bridge to second growth and to create a stable workforce that can lead into second growth harvest. But creation of a stable timber industry that local communities can rely on for economic opportunities and jobs require adequate and consistent timber from the U.S. Forest Service as well. An inadequate Forest Service timber supply, such as the one now facing the industry, could make Sealaska reassess our sustainable cut framework, and threatens the industry’s ability to bridge to second growth.”
According to Cascade Appraisals and Viking Lumber, the manufacturing of young growth spruce and hemlock trees in Southeast Alaska will not be financially feasible until the trees are at least 90 years old or until there are sufficient acres of 60-year old and older trees available to enable the amortization of a modern saw log sawmill. Our young growth trees are 40 to 50 years old. If the Tongass is forced into this transition our manufacturing industry will be gone completely. It will be strictly a small log export industry.
The Board of Directors of Southeast Conference said the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the United States Forest Service must be convinced to delay the transition to a premature exclusive second growth industry. We must have a mix of old growth and young growth logging to sustain the current industry and the economy of the communities in Southeast Alaska.
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Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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