Sierra Pacific Industries announced Monday, Feb. 22, that it would partially reopen its small-log sawmill in Quincy in early May.
That good news was tempered, however, by SPI’s concurrent announcement that it would be cutting staffing at its large-log mill from two shifts to one.
The changes result in a net gain of 35 jobs over current staffing levels.
Area manager Matt Taborski said Monday that workers laid off last year would have first shot, according to seniority and skill set, at the reinstated positions.
According to SPI, recent improvement in the lumber market, should it hold, is a primary driver behind the decision to reopen the small-log plant.
In addition, a recent district court decision has resulted in a moderate increase in the availability of small logs from the national forests in the region.
The company closed the small-log mill in May 2009 due to weak markets and the lack of available timber to run the mill.
Now, a reduction in the availability of larger diameter logs has prompted the company to scale back its large-log mill from two shifts to one shift in May.
“We are pleased that we can restart the small-log mill, but are disappointed that we must reduce the capacity of the large-log mill by half,” said Taborski.
“The market for framing lumber has improved, but we are still operating under a cloud of uncertainty brought about by environmental litigation. We would continue to run the large-log facility on a two-shift basis if more logs were available,” he continued.
“We are hopeful that the Forest Service will move quickly to address the issues raised in the court order and that the road blocks created by environmental lawsuits to implementing forest health and fuel reduction treatments on the national forests of the Sierra Nevada will come to an end.”
SPI spokesman Mark Pawlicki noted district court judge Morrison C. England of the Eastern District of California ruled last November against environmental litigants who had blocked much of the U.S. Forest Service’s timber sale program during the past several years. Environmental groups and the California Attorney General’s Office have appealed that decision. Briefings are scheduled in March and April.
SPI’s Quincy operation is a two-mill complex—one cutting small-diameter logs and the other cutting large-diameter logs into lumber for domestic consumption. After the restart of the small-log mill and the reduction of a shift at the large-log plant approximately 243 people would be employed at the combined facilities and biomass electric-generation facility.
The Carpenter’s Industrial Council represents workers at the Quincy mills. Union leaders were informed of the company’s intent to restart the small-log facility during recent meetings with company officials.
SPI also closed mills in Camino and Sonora in 2009. The company continues to assess the potential for reopening those plants, but to date no decisions have been made.
A series of lawsuits filed in January by the Center for Biological Diversity against 15 SPI timber harvesting plans has jeopardized the potential to restart these facilities according to Pawlicki. Together, more than 300 mill workers lost their family-wage jobs when those two mills closed. “We would like to rehire every laid-off worker in those communities,” said Pawlicki.
“However, those lawsuits could put a roadblock in our log supply and cause us to refrain from opening the plants even as the market for lumber improves,” he added.
SPI owns and manages nearly 1.9 million acres of timberland in California and Washington, and is the second-largest lumber producer in the U.S.
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