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Reason we don’t have jobs is we are shipping raw material to Asia

Reason we don’t have jobs is we are shipping raw material to Asia

In a flier titled “DeFazio Fights to Save Timber Jobs,” our congressman states his resistance to an Obama administration budget cut with “a
devastating impact on BLM’s ability to offer timber projects.” DeFazio says, “Reducing the amount of marketable timber the agency is able to offer in fiscal year 2011 by 45 million board feet will cost 500 to 600 timber jobs.”

Drive the Columbia River from Longview into Portland, and you can see big log ships lined up. At least 500 timber jobs leave the Northwest weekly as boatload after boatload of raw logs are exported to Asian mills.

The Business Insider website reports, “While Canada has drastically raised lumber shipments to China in recent years, the U.S. has instead
expanded exportation of logs to Chinese sawmills and plywood manufacturers. With exports up 150 percent,” the Insider says, “the U.S.
is now the third largest softwood log supplier to China.”

Updated U.S. Forest Service data show 1,100 million board feet of logs shipped out of the Northwest in 2010, compared to 700 million feet in 2009. This year’s first quarter exports, at 390 million board feet, are double the 191 million shipped in 2010’s first quarter.

Extending 2011’s accelerated export rate to year’s end and applying DeFazio’s 12 timber jobs multiplier to every million board feet, the
Northwest could lose 26,400 family wage jobs to Asia in 2011. Add these jobs to the 8,400 lost to exports in 2009, and the 13,200 timber jobs sent overseas in 2010.

Since 2009, Oregon’s politicians have collaborated with the timber industry, its scientists and token environmental groups to ratchet up
federal logging supposedly to “restore” forests and increase jobs. At year’s end, we’ll have lost potentially 48,000 timber jobs to log
exports during this three-year period. Not to mention 4 billion feet of timber ignominiously shipped out of our forests at a loss to soil
stability, water quality, wildlife habitat, fish runs and quality of human life.

Ignoring the log export elephant in their midst, Oregon’s delegation is using jobs, unproven “science” and a perceived timber famine to justify non-sustainable increases in public timber harvesting. Before stuffing sale programs with more historically cheap timber, our delegation should address not only log exports, but the huge uncut volume of federal timber already sold and held under contract.

Timber Data’s tallies show 500 million board feet of Oregon’s Bureau of Land Management timber sold but uncut in 2010. Add this to nearly 400 million feet of uncut state timber and 1,200 million feet of sold and uncut Forest Service timber. That’s more than 2 billion board feet of uncut public timber held under contract in the Northwest!

Three hundred million board feet are in eastside national forests, where Sen. Ron Wyden proposes to triple federal logging. With 500,000
log-truck loads of public timber sold but uncut within hauling distance of Oregon’s mills, how is it they’re “starved for timber”?

BLM’ s latest proposal to “restore” the Willamette Valley’s forests with more logging – the Long Tom Landscape Plan – will log 160 million board feet (40,000 log-truck loads) from 9,200 acres. This sale is near Seneca Sawmill, which already holds 87 million feet of uncut federal timber under contract. Poised as “thinning,” this insidious plan will log more old and blemished trees to be sold as “culls.” Many will be chipped and their remains cremated in Seneca’s biomass generator to haunt the air we breathe.

Today’s political ploys to increase logging on public lands are little different than what they’ve always been – well rewarded resource
plundering. The reality is that global timber corporations are being allowed to exploit the Northwest like a Third World resource center. To
honestly restore our jobs and forests, this inequity needs to be resolved by stopping the largest loss first – the unrestricted export of
raw logs.

In 1990, DeFazio implored the first Bush administration to resolve domestic timber shortages by invoking the Export Administration Act.
This would have eliminated log exports from all public and private lands. Instead of attempting to increase federal timber harvesting,
Oregon’s congressional delegation should ask President Obama to do what Bush wouldn’t – invoke this act. Keep the huge volume of Northwest timber already harvested or sold here at home.

Stop raw log exports, and Oregon’s timber workers can significantly swell their ranks to meet the world’s increasing need for high-quality
finished wood products. It’s a win-win for the people and forests of the Northwest!

Roy Keene is a forest consultant and private timber broker in Eugene.

Reprinted with permission from the author

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5 Responses to "Reason we don’t have jobs is we are shipping raw material to Asia"

  1. RUSerious  June 14, 2011 at 8:13 AM

    Please see the rebuttal in the Guard titled “Dont blame log exports for lack of timber industry jobs” 14 June 2011. Who is accurate??

  2. magix  June 11, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    Your suggestions, Mark, are the basis behind the Coast Range. As to worrying about whether China will buy elsewhere, again, we have to stop believing we are negotiating from a position of weakness. Too many “choices” are made here out of fear and for the short term profits of a handful of individuals rather than for the long term greater good. Let China buy elsewhere… they may find other regions have learned the same lesson.

  3. MarkM  June 11, 2011 at 8:31 AM

    China is very smart about its monetary and trade policy. We are not.

    However, I suspect if we stopped shipping logs to China, they would be able to purchase them elsewhere. It wouldn’t hurt them as much as it would hurt us. Perhaps there will be a developing market in Japan for lumber. But we’re sending them logs now too, aren’t we? The easiest way out would be for the US market to recover and we could sell lumber to ourselves. Win-win. That doesn’t seem likely anytime soon, and even if it does don’t our trade deals with Canada make it difficult to compete with them on lumber?

    Complicating things is the rejuvenation of the lumber business in the SE US where people will do just about anything to get a job that pays next to nothing. Unfortunately we’ve hitched our star to an industry that is caught in a race to the bottom so far as jobs and wages go.

    This is where developing a brand could be beneficial. If we can position our timber as better than anyone else’s — Certified Sustainable Coos (It’s Pre-Approved!) — we could market it as a high end product. Look at the market for bamboo: Consumers like it because it’s green and sustainable. Doug Fir is an exceptional wood. Let’s market it as the best — the Cadillac of wood. If you want the best, you’ll have to pay for it. Then we can manufacture the products (lumber, flooring, cabinetry, furniture, etc.) ourselves, and sell them for top dollar. We could harvest less timber, create more jobs, and make more money.

    Just an idea. Beats shipping our raw materials to Asia.

  4. magix  June 11, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    It was first published in the Guard last week.

    If China so desperately needs our logs it can accept them in the form of lumber. China, which maintains a stranglehold on rare earths and neodymium magnets, is more and more refusing to export neo-magnets unless they are already in the completed product manufactured in China.

  5. MarkM  June 11, 2011 at 6:31 AM

    Thanks for this. Where did it originally appear? Many do not know this story. They think all we need to do is start cutting down more trees (damn the owls & fish!) and we’ll all be livin’ large as 1979. Value-added products are where the money is and lumber is our best one.

    Unfortunately, so much of this issue is wrapped up in our national trade policies which even people of power in Coos County have very little control over. Peter DeFazio has been right time and time again about trade issues since the early 90s, yet he still is largely ignored in DC. I wish he would run a Dennis Kucinich-populist-style campaign for president in 2016 to raise awareness of this and other issues. Could make a difference. Hey, maybe Obama will select Peter to be his VP after Joe replaces Hillary! Well, we can dream anyway . . .

    Till then, shipping logs out of Oregon and particularly Coos County keeps us working and keeps us poor. We need a third way. Until the US domestic lumber market rebounds, I don’t know what that would be. Any ideas?


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