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Re: Roundlog Export
by Brian Brown


November 08, 2004

Chris Wilhelm and Mike Sallee have both expressed some notion that selling logs for export is somehow a policy at odds with a thriving local economy.  This is how liberals who don't want timber cut go about it in a pro timber community; they can't effectively sell their anti logging propaganda to this audience so they take another tack, complete with Democrat buzzwords like outsourcing.
However when they put it in economic terms, they have to ignore facts.  The reason, small cedar logs cannot be processed competitively in Alaska is that the timber industry has been denied the benefit of having a viable timber base that would enable mills to invest in the necessary equipment to compete with mills in Washington or Oregon for this type of log.  The consequence of having a limited harvest is that the mills here cannot support harvest of the type being done on Gravina, where the export logs are paying stumpage, financing a big chunk of the Lewis Reef road and providing jobs and benefits to over 50 people.  In the photo that Mr. Sallee submitted, the background shows a hillside that has already been harvested.  It has been cut and helicoptered out at a very high expense because that is how the Mental Health Trust wanted it.  This not only denies Mr. Sallee the opportunity to do another 5 year diatribe about clearcutting (like the one on Slide Mountain) it also drives up the harvest cost.  The consequence of this is that it becomes unaffordable for the local mills.  While it may be true that some of the mills are short of timber, that would not be the case if they could pay prices necessary for a sale of this type.  Timber supply is partially a function of cost and at some cost the supply is infinite (Economics 101). 
Mr. Wilhelm thinks the state should put restrictions on logs sold in Alaska.  This would not do anything to help the sawmill industry.  The USFS has plenty of timber and the state is making timber available to mills.  However, environmentalists like Wilhelm put up roadblocks at every turn.  The only reason the state has to provide timber to the mills is because of the litigation machine these type of people have helped create that has stymied the feds.  In the short term this denies timber to the mills, but longer term, it keeps the mills from making the big investments necessary to become competitive.  In the meantime, logging operators, who have millions of dollars worth of equipment have to keep working so the export market becomes a crucial part of the entire industry.  The timber that is uneconomical to the local sawmills is only available for export and timber cutters, longshoremen, tugboat drivers and loggers are no less important than sawmill workers.  The logs in Mr. Sallee's picture are gong to Washington state where their Department of Natural Resources has an annual harvest level of 500 million board feet, about 12% of the harvest in the state.  Overall that annual cut is about 20 times that of Alaska.  None of those logs have an "in state" restriction on them, but with a harvest level of that size, the mills can afford to make the investments in equipment and marketing they need to sustain themselves.  Those entities are not successful because they were helped by subsidies or mandates.  Because they have private and state timber and a high level of harvest they have a viable and competitive industry which can buy logs from neighboring states and countries.  Let's put 4,000 million feet of timber up for sale in Alaska by all means so we can have that kind of industry as well.

To paraphrase Mr. Wilhelm it is the job of all state agencies is to insure that resources be managed for the sake of jobs.  If that is the case, I say let's start with all the oil leaving Valdez, and the ore leaving Kotzebue, not to mention gold from Juneau.  We should refine all the oil and ship gasoline, think of the jobs that would create; smelt the zinc, bring in iron ore and ship galvanized steel from Alaska.  Why bother with timber, its processing jobs would be miniscule compared with that?  If the further processing of something is always a benefit, we should also restart the pulp mill so that we can stop exporting wood chips, I am sure Mr. Sallee and Mr. Wilhelm would be in favor of that.
Brian Brown
Ketchikan, AK - USA


Related Viewpoints:

RE: Roundlog Export by Chris Wilhelm - Ketchikan, AK - USA

Roundlog export from Gravina by Mike Sallee - Ketchikan, AK - USA


Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.



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