FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Log, Baby, Log

Over the years, there have been plenty of proverbial canaries in the coal mine who repeatedly warned about a looming economic crisis, a virtual perfect storm that would be equal parts over-consumption, unsustainable development, deregulation, “free trade” and irresponsibility on the part of corporations and consumers.

If the sobering economic headlines of the past few weeks teach us one thing it should be that much of our current economic system is significantly flawed and that a new economic model – based on the principles of sustainability and local and regional self-sufficiency – is desperately needed.

Fortunately, Montana is in a unique position to lead this effort towards greater sustainability. A future where local farmers and ranchers grow our food, Montana workers produce clean and green energy for our homes and the ingenuity of our businesses combines with the skills of our workforce to protect and restore the environment, while also producing locally-made products that enhance the quality of our lives.

Locally, we’ve witnessed the timber industry hit particularly hard by the economic crisis with recent announcements of closures, curtailments and lay-offs. As tough as this news has been, it’s not entirely unexpected since the industry is inextricably tied to the housing and credit sectors of our economy. After all, we’re experiencing the worst housing slump since the Great Depression and the steepest decline in lumber consumption ever.

For example, when Plum Creek laid off nearly fifty workers in the Flathead Valley, their vice president told the Missoulian, “Market prices are depressed and don’t currently cover the costs of production.”

Last week, as Tricon Timber in Mineral County, MT laid off forty-five, the Missoulian article opened with, “No one’s buying what Tricon Timber of St. Regis has to sell.” Equally as blunt, was Tricon’s president as he told the Clark Fork Chronicle, “We are getting to the point where we’re not getting any offers [for our products].”

Compounding the problem, the industry is currently getting only 42% for their dimensional lumber compared with prices four short years ago, while diesel fuel costs have risen 250% during a similar time period.

Understandably, people are concerned and there is a natural inclination to “do something.” The past few years have seen an increase in collaborative efforts that have brought together diverse interests, including the WildWest Institute, to find common ground on bona-fide restoration and fuel reduction projects. While much work remains to be accomplished, to date agreements have been reached on a set of statewide Restoration Principles (www.montanarestoration.org) and collaborative projects are under way across the state.

Unfortunately, outside of these successful and emerging collaborative efforts, there is an aggressive effort behind the scenes to “bail out” the timber industry with an ill-conceived initiative divorced from economic reality and any concept of sustainability.

Led by the Missoula Area Economic Development Corporation, this initiative is based entirely – and, up to this point, only – on a “wish list” that was put together by the timber industry.

The basic premise of MAEDC’s initiative, which in August was given to state officials, legislators and the Montana Congressional delegation, can be summed up simply: Log Baby Log. The initiative calls for “immediate action” to increase national forest logging by 330%, double state land logging and a bizarre plan for the state to seize control of a million acres of national forests, purportedly for even more logging.

But wait. There’s more. Montana taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill for timber industry exemptions from fuel taxes, discounts for vehicle registration and a taxpayer-supported program to pave log yards. One state legislator has even drafted legislation giving the entire timber industry a two-year tax holiday. Sorry, but does Plum Creek really need tax breaks paid for by hard-working Montanans?

If we are going to “bail out” the timber industry, shouldn’t Montanans at least demand that any taxpayer dollars go towards efforts that truly put the industry on a path towards economic and ecological sustainability?

For those interested in a more detailed discussion of what this path might look like, the Montana Community Development Corporation’s well-researched and well-reasoned “A New Business Plan: Moving Forest Businesses to Long Term Environmental and Economic Sustainability” should be required reading.

The WildWest Institute supports sustainable economic development in Montana and has been actively promoting some of our solutions. For example, let’s work together to ensure that every home and business built in Montana is made out of Montana wood products. After all, this would help solve some market issues, while also reducing costs – and greenhouse gases – from shipping products around the country.

Or how about collecting construction waste, which is currently dumped in our landfills, for use in high-efficiency biomass boilers? Or developing businesses that would use sustainably harvested blue-stain pine for locally made cabinets, furniture and wainscoting?

I’m confident that if we work together we’ll find sustainable solutions that benefit our state’s economy, workers and environment. Unfortunately, MAEDC’s timber industry “wish list” for greatly expanded logging of public lands and unprecedented tax breaks and subsidies represents the same type of short-sighted, unsustainable development and over-consumption that got our country into this current economic crisis to begin with, and it should be rejected accordingly.

MATTHEW KOEHLER is executive director of the WildWest Institute. You can learn more at: www.wildwestinstitute.

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail