Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Small Northwest Businesses, Towns Hit Hard by Timber Compromise

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Small Northwest Businesses, Towns Hit Hard by Timber Compromise

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Clinton's attempt at a grand compromise between loggers and environmentalists in the Pacific Northwest is not going down easily with the business community in this timber-rich region.

"Clinton promised a balanced approach, and an 80 percent reduction {in logging on federal lands} certainly does not represent a balance," says Butch Bernhardt, spokesman for the Western Wood Products Association in Portland, Ore. "It's going to be a very destructive plan for the forest products industry."

"Every component of it is fraudulent" charges Larry Mason, executive director of the Washington Commercial Forest Action Committee, a grass-roots organization based in Forks, Wash.

Despite the industry's general frustration with the plan, which the president outlined July 1, the economic hardship is far from evenly spread throughout the industry, analysts say. The big losers are small companies dependent on federal lands for timber and their home towns. Rural logging towns have already been devastated by the court-ordered shutdown of logging on federal lands in 1991 to protect the northern spotted owl. "My family lost their sawmill," which had employed 40 people in 1988, Mr. Mason says. A number of men from the town are now working in Alaska or other states and sending money back to their families.

Some large companies may benefit if the limited amount of logging Mr. Clinton plans to allow pushes wood prices up, says Dan Nelson, a securities analyst with Ragen MacKenzie, a Seattle investment house. These include Weyerhaeuser Company, in Tacoma, Wash., and Louisiana Pacific Corporation of Portland. Both have big holdings of uncut timber.

Analysts also say the Clinton plan signals a continuation of the trend of decreasing reliance on the Northwest, which now supplies roughly one-third of the wood used in the United States. This trend could be favorable for mills in southern states and foreign countries.

Clinton promised to do what President Bush had failed to achieve: to come up with a solution that blended environmental protection while giving a boost to an industry that provides the economic base for many communities from Northern California to the Canadian border. …

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