Timber management unchanged for now

Written by Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer November 16, 2012 01:25 pm

Not much has changed since Hancock Timber Resource Group bought out Forest Capital Partners, and the fate of the company’s timber supply agreement with Boise Cascade is yet to be determined.

Those statements were at the heart of a talk given by John Warness, Hancock’s region manager, during a Union County Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday at the Flying J truck stop and restaurant. 

Warness was there to fill Chamber members in on the recent change in ownership of some 300,000 acres timberland in Union, Baker, Wallowa and Umatilla counties, and what it means to local residents. He said that for now, business goes on as usual.

“Nothing’s changed in how the land is to be managed, though I’m not saying it won’t change in two years,” he said.

Warness detailed some history about the timberland, saying Boise Cascade bought it in the 1950s and 1960s, and owned and managed it until 2004. He said Boise sold the land in order to concentrate on manufacturing.

Forest Capital Partners, an investor-driven timber management company, acquired the property in 2005 and held it until July of this year when it sold to Hancock Timber Resources. Warness said the 14 Forest Capital employees working in the region remain on Hancock’s payroll.

“We all came right straight across. All that’s changed is who signs the paycheck,” he said. “The institutional knowledge we have here is much appreciated by Hancock.”

Warness said Hancock is a major contributor to the local economy. The local payroll totals $1.3 million, and Hancock pays $750,000 in local and state taxes. The company works with nine logging contractors in the region.

Warness spent some time talking about the 10-year timber supply agreement Forest Capital signed with Boise. The contract, due to expire in 2015, requires Forest Capital to sell a minimum amount of timber harvested on the land to Boise Cascade. 

The contract is important to Boise Cascade, which has said in numerous public forums it is having trouble keeping mills open because of a shortage of federal timber available in the region.

Warness said Hancock is honoring the contract. Though he didn’t give any specifics about Hancock’s future plans, he said the contract may be re-negotiated.

“There will be a lot of meetings going on. It can be re-negotiated if both parties want to,” he said.

In other talk, Warness said Hancock, like Forest Capital, is leaving most of the land open for hunting and other recreational pursuits. He added, though, that some adjustments may made to that policy, especially for areas that are being over-used.

“In some places we do have meadows and roads being torn up. There are some things in the back of our mind we’d like to control a little more,” Warness said.

Warness said Hancock Timber Resource Group is a global timber management concern owning millions of acres of land in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and other locations. He said the company is committed to sustainable forestry, and is subject to third-party certification of its practices.

“Hancock is very big in global forest stewardship. We try to maintain that balance between social, economic and environmental concerns,” Warness said.