FOREST ISSUES TAKE TOLL ON JOSEPH MILL

January 24, 2002 12:00 am

The recessions first serious blow to Northeast Oregons economy will take place in early February when Joseph Timber Co. idles 47 employees. The shutdown is expected to be temporary, perhaps only until June. But market conditions and availability of raw material will determine whether the mill will be able to reopen.

Joseph Timbers announcement is bad news for the Wallowa County economy. The mill and its alignment last year with Wallowa County Community Solutions showed promise but was dependent upon the ability to contract for salvage and reforestation work. Recently, Joseph Timber was awarded bids for a timber sale and a service contract, but apparently the company was not in a position to proceed. Zacharias Logging will take over the projects, but will have to send logs to Clarkston rather than Joseph.

Joseph Timbers struggles shouldnt come as a complete surprise. The company went through a management shakeup last year and timber availability has been an ongoing issue. But hope was afforded in the companys association with Community Solutions and a strategy built on benefitting from the Blue Mountains Demonstration Area, which was intended to be a model of how public lands could be managed to meet both environmental and economic goals. But something didnt click somewhere.

A week ago The Observer featured a guest opinion by Gov. John Kitzhaber, who said the forest projects that have been so carefully laid out to balance commercial forestry with environmental stewardship have been bogged down by a combination of poor lumber markets, cumbersome procedural requirements under the federal Endangered Species Act, inadequate agency staffing and lengthy planning processes. ... The result, the governor wrote, is that the demonstration area has not, to date, fulfilled its potential to help in stabilizing local economies. Even mills that have made the reinvestment to retool to handle smaller diameter logs are struggling.

Joseph Timber and Wallowa Countys economy will pay the price for the assortment of reasons that contributed to the mills pending shutdown. We can only hope that the issues Kitzhaber spoke about are addressed so that Wallowa Countys economy can get back on track.

CARING PEOPLE

In these days of snow and more snow and slick streets, random acts of kindness are necessary and appreciated. Weve seen and heard about phantoms out and about clearing walks before neighbors even see who lent a hand. And then there are those who are willing to give a little a push when a car cant quite get moving, or aid someone who needs a steady hand to help them cross the street.

Stories like these dont make news, but they go a long way in showing that there are good people out there.

People who care about others and their community make our world a better place.