Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Wally Herger/SPI Dog & Pony Show

By Kyle Haines, THP Tracking Center
May 21, 2009

Quincy, CA SPI Log Deck 2009

Since early 2009, Sierra Pacific Industries has become vocal in local newspapers and radio outlets blaming environmentalists for work reductions and closures at Northern California mills. They claim over 400 million board feet of timber is currently tied up in litigation and appeals. They also cite a lack of availability of logs on Forest Service lands as being the chief reason for closing a small log mill operation in Quincy, CA. And, on the heels of a large wildfire season last year across the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, they claim widespread logging would have stopped the fires.

To reinforce these claims, Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Granite Bay, CA), Congressman Wally Herger (R-Chico, CA) and Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) stepped forward and organized a dog and pony show in Quincy, CA to blame environmentalists. McClintock told the crowd of 100 people "I want the people of Quincy and the surrounding areas to know that the current situation is simply not acceptable" and requires the "full attention of the national government". Congressman Rob Bishop claimed "Suing timber sales has become a cottage industry" and Rep Wally Herger promised to bring the issues before the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee in Washington, DC, and get a congressional hearing organized.

Despite all the song and dance, it is the market which is the real driver of mill closures and log supply. According to the most recent estimates from the Western Wood Products Association, "The poor economy and housing market are the chief reasons for the remarkable decline in lumber demand". WWPA predicts U.S. lumber demand will slide this year to just 28.9 billion board feet, down almost 30 percent from 2008 totals. Since reaching an all-time high of 64.3 billion board feet in 2005, U.S. demand for lumber has dropped by more than 55 percent - the steepest decline in the history of the industry.