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FOREST HOLDS STEADY ON JOBS
From AP and Observer reports
The reduction in national forest jobs across the Northwest will not affect the Wallowa-Whitman this year.
"We've gone through quite a bit of downsizing in the past," said John Denne, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest spokesman. "We're pretty much level this year."
According to the Associated Press, a total of 63 jobs are being cut from the Forest Service in Oregon and Washington, a number of them west of the Cascades.
The Forest Service employed 8,173 in the Northwest Region in 1990, compared to 4,700 in 2001. Denne said that on the Wallowa-Whitman, there were 484 permanent employees in 1992. This year, there are 319 permanent positions, up from 283 in 2000.
National Fire Plan funds approved last year have helped the Wallowa-Whitman improve employment conditions and have created a number of temporary and part-time jobs on the forest. Forty-two firefighters have been hired using fire plan money.
"We took a middle-of-the-road approach to hiring under the fire plan," Denne said. "We used some of those funds for contracts, which gave us some flexibility. I think the jobs from the fire plan are safe."
Since the late 1980s, the timber harvest has decreased by about 70 percent, he said.
"When our dollars started declining, we began reducing, and we've been reducing through attrition since."
Regionwide, about two-thirds of the logging in the national forests involves trees that are dead or dying as a result of fire or insect infestation. Salvage logs generally are worth less than green logs, and payments have often been delayed because buyers delay harvest hoping for higher log prices.
The Wallowa-Whitman and the Blue Mountain Demonstration Area, which includes parts of three national forests, have been looking at various types of contracts that would combine salvage and small-diameter logging with forest restoration. Some service contracts that combine the two have been awarded, but none produce the dollars earned through traditional timber sales in the past.