By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog
Oregon’s timber industry is suffering under the federal shutdown, and government employees might not be the only ones out of work if federal lawmakers don’t get their act together.
Timber harvesting just isn’t that important to the the U.S. Forest Service. That means Oregon’s already struggling timber sector is facing more pain.
The timber industry just started working consistently for the first time in four years after the housing bubble sent the nation’s economy into a tailspin.
“People are building homes and buying homes,”said Jim Geisinger, executive vice president of the Associated Oregon Loggers Inc. “The demand is increasing.”
But the clock is ticking.
Loggers have about a month to stock up their supply before the winter rains hit.
“Timing is everything,and this couldn’t come at a worse time,” he said.
That’s because logging isn’t essential, according to the U.S. Forest Service website.
Due to the lapse in agency funding, the sale of all types of permits (i.e., recreation, firewood, forest products, mineral materials for example) are suspended, recreation.gov reservations are suspended, and all federally owned recreation sites are closed. All offices are closed. These services will be available once funding is restored.
Law enforcement, fire suppression, and other essential services will continue without interruption.
But loggers and sawmills aren’t paying much attention to that right now, Geisinger said.
“Some people are just continuing to log because they believe they have a contractual right to continue working,” he said. ”Just because the government didn’t’ come to work doesn’t mean (timber men) can’t make good on their contract.”
If the shutdown persists, however, the impact could multiply, said Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council.
“We really run the risks of getting shut down and putting a lot of people out of work,” he said. “It’s significant”
Partin also said the mills were given little notice — about a week — to shutter.
“Our members in our industry (weren’t) prepared for this,” he said.
Partin said he’s not blaming one political party or the other, but said the debacle shows the real-life impact of the partisan infighting coming from the nation’s capital.
“We’re an industry that’s collateral damage,” he said.
And it’s just throwing salt on a fresh wound.
President Barack Obama has vowed to veto legislation that passed the House that would put more than half of the 2.8 million acres of federally owned forest land into a state trust for timber management, opening it up to more logging. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, is expected to offer an amendment to the House-approved bill to make it more palatable to the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Contact Shelby Sebens at Shelby@NorthwestWatchdog.org
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