Montana's U.S. Senator Daines Lies for the Timber Industry

Brenna Bell, Staff Attorney/NEPA Coordinator

You may have heard the news from Montana: eight months after timber giant Weyerhauser purchased Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc for $8 billion it announced that it would close two mills and lay off 230 workers.

Immediately after Weyerhauser made its announcement, Montana’s U.S. Senator Steve Daines released the following statement:

“This is devastating news to the Columbia Falls community and the hardworking families who relied upon these good-paying jobs. This underscores the importance to urgently pass forest reform legislation to get Montana’s abundance of logs to our mills and keep good-paying jobs in our state. I will not sit idly by and watch Montana jobs disappear and families suffer as a result of frivolous lawsuits by fringe environmentalists and excessive regulations.”

We’ve heard these accusations before, but this time there is a very stark disconnect between rhetoric and reality: Weyerhauser does not use logs from National Forests. As the largest private landowner in the United States, it does not need them and even if it wanted to log public lands it can't, because the company exports raw logs.

Weyerhauser’s mill closures have nothing to do with environmental regulations on federal lands, and everything to do with the changing international market for wood products.

Senator Daines is not alone in manipulating the facts to forward his political goal of increasing logging on our federal public lands. In reality, the downturn of the housing market, mechanization of the timber industry, and upsurge of log exports, are the major causes of timber job losses.

Even when the amount of timber logged is on the rise in Oregon, the number of jobs is still declining. For example, in 2014, the amount of trees logged in Benton County was the same as in 1985. In 1985, this supported 1,300 jobs.  Now, it only supports 500.

If as many people were employed with the same amount of timber logged in Oregon in 2013 as in 2000, there would be almost 20,000 more jobs without increasing the volume of timber cut. However, more employees means less profit, and it is in the best interest of the timber industry to put the blame elsewhere – like on those “fringe environmentalists.”

Montana's U.S. Senator Daines is willing to tell lies for the timber industry--our U.S. Senators and Representatives need to know that it is unacceptable for them to do the same. Please take a moment to tell Oregon’s congressional delegation the truth: gutting environmental regulations on public lands will not bring back timber industry jobs!

As we sympathize with those who have lost their jobs in Montana, we refuse to let their loss be exploited for political favors to the timber industry.


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