Industry News – December 1999

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Summary of news about the forest products industry.

Godfrey Lumber Co., embroiled in a battle with North Carolina officials and environmentalists, has won a skirmish. The state Environmental Management Commission reversed an earlier decision and returned the company’s stormwater permit. North Carolina officials had revoked the stormwater permit at a proposed chip mill in 1997.

• The U.S. Labor Department has disagreed with claims by Maine loggers that the use of Canadian labor in the Maine woods depressed wages of U.S. workers. Companies that follow the rules when they use Canadian workers and pay prevailing wages do not have an “adverse impact” on logging wages, the Labor Department said.

Maine loggers have blocked private roads into forests twice this year, alleging that Canadians are being used by logging contractors to lower the wages of Maine workers.

• MacMillan Bloedel shareholders voted to approve a takeover of the Canadian company by U.S.-based Weyerhaeuser.

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The two companies have the same core values and their goal is not just to save jobs but to create jobs, MacMillan Bloedel president Tom Stephens told shareholders. “This isn’t an end, it’s a beginning,” he said later.

• Timber Co. will sell its California timberlands to Hawthorne Timber Co. LLC for about $397 million. The timberlands include about 194,000 acres of forests in Mendocino and Humboldt counties. The sale is expected to be made final by the end of the year.

• The New Brunswick government seized logs harvested on Crown land by native people. Native loggers from the Big Cove reserve challenged the government to arrest them after cutting down trees on land leased to the Irving Company; they contend they have a right to harvest timber on Crown land. The Department of Natural Resources is investigating.

In a related development, New Brunswick is considering giving a bigger share of the province’s rich timber stands to aboriginals. Natural Resources Minister Jeannot Volpe made no promises that the aboriginal allotment would be increased from the current level of 5% of the allowable cut. He was asked by the leadership of the Big Cove First Nation to make the request, Volpe said.

• Abitibi-Consolidated plans to close its Gaspesia paper mill in Chandler, Quebec. More than 400 workers will lose their jobs. The decision came at the same time the company, which specializes in newsprint, reported a loss for the fifth consecutive quarter. Abitibi-Consolidated blamed the mill closing on excess production in its own network and in the entire industry.

• Willamette Industries Inc. has become the first major forest products company to receive independent third-party certification that its forest management practices comply with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

The company’s 610,000 acres of Oregon forest lands were audited recently. The audit included checks of forest management policies and records and also visits to forest sites chosen at random.

• The seedling outlook in the Southeast is tight but not desperate, according to R. Wayne Bell, president of International Forest Company, the region’s largest independent seedling producer. A fall survey of several state forestry agencies showed seedling supplies running low or virtually exhausted. Availability of seedlings from private nurseries is harder to pin-point, however, because of the large number of small nursery operations.

• North American lumber and structural wood panel production is expected to decline slightly next year, according to the EPA-The Engineered Wood Association and the Southern Forest Products Association. However, the groups expect that production of wood I-joist and laminated veneer lumber will continue to increase. The projections assume that the Gross Domestic Product will slow the next two years, reducing housing starts.