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Timber Industry In Need Of Help

Sonora, CA — The California Forestry Association says 545 million board ft. of lumber on national forests in California are currently held up in court because of lawsuits filed by members of the environmental community.

“The only way that we are going to see our sawmill in Standard open back up is to get this board ft. back on the market,” says TuCare President Mike Albrecht. “Admittedly right now we have a demand problem, but that is going to turn around. Then the problem will go right back to timber supply.”

The Forest Service approved a plan in 2004 allowing for additional logging on federal land and reduced restrictions previously approved in 2001. Lawsuits were filed in 2005 claiming that the new policy does not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Albrecht says TuCare is waiting anxiously to hear a ruling on the matter from the Ninth Circuit Court related to the matter.

Meanwhile, many members of the timber industry are watching a bill proposed by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon that would lift Clean Air Act restrictions on the use of biomass from federal lands for bio fuel production.

Steve Brink of the California Forestry Association says, “The biggest challenge it faces is the number of interest groups that have a publicly stated goal of no commercial activity on the national forest.”

Brink and Albrecht say the legislation would help thin out the forest and prevent potential catastrophic wildfires. A similar measure has been proposed in the House of Representatives.

A third item that could help the timber industry is a “Buy California” campaign that would require state projects like bridges and schools to use California lumber products.

“This would help solve the demand side of the issue,” says Albrecht. “We’re very hopeful that someone in our state legislature can push a ‘Buy California’ initiative through.”

He notes that proposals are currently being crafted by lawmakers, but nothing has been introduced.

Written by bjhansen@mlode.com