Winslow wood mill set for 2013

2012-05-19T09:15:00Z Winslow wood mill set for 2013CYNDY COLE Sun Staff Reporter Arizona Daily Sun
May 19, 2012 9:15 am  • 

A Montana-based company won a contract Friday for the biggest-ever thinning project in U.S. history designed to restore northern Arizona forests to health.

Pioneer Associates of Billings, Mont., will use the wood from 300,000 acres to feed a wood products mill that it plans to open in Winslow by the fall of 2013.

Pioneer agreed to pay the U.S. Forest Service $6.6 million for the right to log the forests -- about $22 an acre.

The mill will employ 600 people and cut ponderosa pines 5 inches in diameter and larger into pieces about a couple inches thick, with the pieces glued together and joined to form laminated panels.

Those panels go into doors, windows and furniture.

"Really, the only way you can take this small wood and turn it into something valuable is through this process," said Michael Cooley, a sawmill operator in Heber speaking on behalf of Pioneer Associates and its Arizona subsidiary, Pioneer Forest Products.

Mid-level jobs would pay some $26,000 to $32,000 annually, and the mill would be running at full capacity by 2015

Another 400 people would be employed logging and trucking on some 30,000 acres a year of Coconino and Kaibab national forests for 10 years. The first 5,000 acres will be logged this year.

The Pioneer contract is part of a 20-year plan to restore 2.4 million acres along the Mogollon Rim to a natural fire regime, reduce wildfire threats and create sustainable forest industries.

CONFLICTS AVOIDED

Local Forest Service officials, speaking at a press conference Friday at Little America Hotel in Flagstaff, said they delegated all decisions about who got the contract to Albuquerque, to avoid the possibility that local businesses working with local national forests would get special consideration.

"The company that gets this has to stay for 10 years and has to have the ability to be successful," said Corbin Newman, head of national forests in the Southwest.

The Center for Biological Diversity -- which has been a part of a 31-member stakeholder group calling for precisely this kind of action in the forest -- blasted the agency's pick, saying that the other bidder would have paid more for the contract and had pledged to use only small-diameter trees.

The Center contended that one of the principals in Pioneer Forest Products is a recent Forest Service employee.

"The decision stinks of cronyism," said the Center's Taylor McKinnon.

Any opponents have a couple weeks to challenge the Forest Service's selection.

Pioneer plans to build in Winslow with or without any legal or other procedural challenges, Cooley said.

EQUATION CHANGED

Not long ago, these small- and medium-diameter tree contracts went begging, if they sold at all.

Some small forest-thinning contracts didn't sell for lack of buyers for the harvested wood, Flagstaff District Ranger Mike Elson said a couple of years ago.

This longer-term, $6.6 million contract somewhat changes the equation, though, by setting a lower price in exchange for the construction of a major facility to use small trees.

Pioneer Associates is planning to use the bulk of each tree to make laminate wood.

The limbs and twigs would make biodiesel, heat for a kiln to dry wood, and electricity.

Steve Gatewood works for the Greater Flagstaff Forest Partnership, which formed after the 1996 wildfire season that saw big fires near Flagstaff, and he's been keeping track of these plans.

"I think they're great," he said. "We've been waiting for a long time."

He likes the provision to haul limbs and brush out of the forest and use it for fuel and heat, rather than burning it.

"Everybody's committed to using the byproducts," he said.

TRUCKS VS. WILDFIRES

Truck traffic in and out of the forest will increase, with about four trips per acre, or 120,000 truck trips per year over the national forests for this work.

Officials were asked about the impact of increased logging on tourism, and if the scale of the logging would hamper it.

The alternative -- really big wildfires -- is usually worse for tourism, said Newman, the regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service.

"There's a few things people look for when they look for a recreation setting," he said. "They want it green. Not brown. Not black."

Cyndy Cole can be reached at 913-8607 or at ccole@azdailysun.com.

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Sun. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(14) Comments

  1. spiritflows
    Report Abuse
    spiritflows - May 25, 2012 11:47 am
    To Forester: Hope you get your job back, and thanks for the work you do. Citizens and the forests need you. Our forests are in bad, bad shape due to a bunch of city dwellers managing through lawsuits to promote an agenda that doesn't even relate to forest health.
  2. Forester
    Report Abuse
    Forester - May 24, 2012 6:56 pm
    Wow, $22/acre! CBD can't stand for the Forest Service to receive any compensation for restoring forest health. Most, if not all, revenue will be absorbed by service work performed by contractors, such as improving roads or thinning trees less than 5". Any potential "profit" will not even come close to covering the costs of analyzing and preparing these projects, which the Forest Service has already paid for on the shelfstock acres that will employ 100's while we wait for CBD to lose its appeal.
  3. Treeguy530
    Report Abuse
    Treeguy530 - May 23, 2012 10:45 pm
    It's too bad we couldn't have done this 20 years ago. How many acres of forest and sensitive habitat could have been saved?! Hopefully, the public is becoming more aware of the costs of groups like CBD to taxpayers and natural resources. In California CBD is a petitioner to list the black backed woodpecker as a threatened species. They say the species is negatively impacted by post-fire salvage logging, active fire suppression, and pre-fire forest thinning. Black good, green bad?
  4. spiritflows
    Report Abuse
    spiritflows - May 22, 2012 9:26 pm
    It was the greenies who stopped forest thinning long ago. Has everyone forgotten that? I used to be a greenie too, until I looked a little deeper. I was amazed how we, the volunteer greenies implementing the "programs", had been used by Wall Street bankers even here in little ol' Flagstaff.
  5. spiritflows
    Report Abuse
    spiritflows - May 22, 2012 9:22 pm
    sunshinepatriot said: "I once had a modicum of sympathy for the work of the Center for Biological Diversity, but for some time that have been nothing but an intractable obstacle to anything productive getting done in our national forests."

    Look at their funders, and you will discover who they really are, who they really work for, and what their real goals are.

  6. spiritflows
    Report Abuse
    spiritflows - May 22, 2012 9:20 pm
    Bigfoot said: "Why is it that neo-cons always are out to make a buck when the real issue is improving the health of our forests....ALWAYS! It's never the other way around."

    Can you afford to bring equipment, hire employees, pay overhead expenses for months, dispose of the downed trees, all for nothing? Businesses can't operate without money, and profit is needed so they can stay in business. That's a pretty basic old-time business principle.
  7. ForestFriend
    Report Abuse
    ForestFriend - May 21, 2012 7:55 am
    Talk about cronyism! The Center for Biodiversity has an MOU with the bidder who did not win the 10 year contract, so now they are mad? They bring up ancient history while ignoring their own. It's time to support the winner and help, not hinder the enormous task at hand. Support Pioneer Forest Products! Let's help them make some money so they can stay the course and thin out the small diameter trees for the ten years. 4FRI WILL NOT CUT OLD GROWTH. PERIOD!
  8. sunshinepatriot
    Report Abuse
    sunshinepatriot - May 20, 2012 3:29 pm
    I once had a modicum of sympathy for the work of the Center for Biological Diversity, but for some time that have been nothing but an intractable obstacle to anything productive getting done in our national forests. I’m sure they feel that they, and only they, can fly the banner of indignant righteousness when it comes to environmental protection, but this banner will soon fly over a burned-out husk we once called Arizona if they never deign to meet the other stakeholders halfway.
  9. white mtn resident
    Report Abuse
    white mtn resident - May 20, 2012 11:15 am
    One must realize the CBD only wins when it sues and gets court costs. By disagreeing with the outcome of this long overdue project the CBD will be able to appeal and then sue each time a specific area is proposed for treatment. With the CBD it is either do it exactly as we dictate or we will see you in court so our lawyers can continue to stop any human activity.
  10. Bigfoot
    Report Abuse
    Bigfoot - May 20, 2012 10:55 am
    Why is it that neo-cons always are out to make a buck when the real issue is improving the health of our forests....ALWAYS! It's never the other way around.

  11. brasstacks
    Report Abuse
    brasstacks - May 20, 2012 8:04 am
    I found the Center for Biologicals statement confusing. It doesn't matter what an industry spokeperson pledges to the Center or other groups, because the industry does not decide what size trees get cut. The forest service makes the decision and they have decided to thin the forests of small trees. The company chosen is discussing their use of small diameter trees. Seems like the Center would rather have the whole forest burn down than get something done.
  12. in2ideas
    Report Abuse
    in2ideas - May 20, 2012 7:40 am
    Why is it that liberal groups always obstruct progress in regards to improving the health of our forests....ALWAYS! It's never the other way around.
  13. ForestFriend
    Report Abuse
    ForestFriend - May 19, 2012 10:46 pm
    This is great news for northern Arizona forests - restored wildlife habitat, reduced fire risk,and jobs for Arizonans taking good care of their woods. I am very excited to finally see this happen!
  14. raynaz
    Report Abuse
    raynaz - May 19, 2012 1:45 pm
    How does this fit in with the new travel restrictions?
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick