Lack of federal timber forces Swanson Group sawmill closure
April 4, 2019 | 12:22 pm CDT
GLENDALE, Ore. - A lack of timber supply has forced Swanson Group, a Southwest Oregon-based forest products manufacturer, to shut down one of its sawmills.
But how could a company located in an area rich with forests fail to secure enough wood?
Oregon's Southwest region and in particular the small, rural town of Glendale are surrounded by forests owned by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. This is a region, according to Oregon's The Register-Guard and The News-Review, that's plagued with wildfires caused by the federal government's failure to properly manage the region's forests.
Local media say trees on the nearby federal lands grow at a much higher rate than which they are harvested. Rates of tree mortality and insect infestation are also rapidly accelerating.
The closure of the sawmill could make things worse in the area.
"In exchange for making improvements to the land, reducing wildfire risks and improving forest access, Swanson Group and other Oregon-grown companies obtain wood fiber to feed their mills and provide employment for working families," wrote Nick Smith of the Register-Guard. "The closure of the Glendale mill means one less market for federal lands that desperately need treatment, and one less source of investment that makes large-scale restoration possible."
The news comes at a time with frequent claims that forest fires are the result of mismanagement.
"We hear a lot of comments that the forest fires today are so common or so bad because of poor forest management during the past 100 years," says Gene Wengert, the Wood Doctor. "This statement has some truth in it, but we do need to understand that a forest fire is a natural event in nature.
A recent proposal from the U.S. Forest Service to remove more than 360,000 acres of dead trees from the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming may validate these claims. The Medicine Bow, which stretches across more than 2.2 million acres in Wyoming and Colorado, has been devastated by beetle infestation. Millions of dead trees now fill the landscape - fueling wildfires, interfering with wildlife, and endangering campers.
The Swanson facility's employees have already been transferred to two of the company's other Oregon sawmills. The family-owned Swanson now operates three facilities.
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