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Timber sale attracts no bids

By Paul Fattig
Mail Tribune
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No bids were received during Thursday’s oral auction of two salvage timber sales on U.S. Bureau of Land Management forestland burned by the 2002 Timbered Rock fire in the Trail Creek watershed.

That could have ramifications on the planned Biscuit fire salvage in the Siskiyou National Forest, according to a timber industry spokesman.

Like the Biscuit fire salvage, the Timbered Rock salvage sales have been opposed by environmental groups. The 2002 Biscuit fire covered nearly 500,000 acres; the Timbered Rock fire burned about 27,000 acres, with about 12,000 acres in the BLM district.

The BLM plans to continue to offer the two Timbered Rock sales, called Flaming Rock and Smoked Gobbler, through May 10, according to Lance Nimmo, field manager for the BLM’s Butte Falls Resource Area.

"The sales are still open for bid," he said, adding salvage sales don’t always receive bids. "If we get more than one bid, we’ll go back and have an oral auction again."

If only one sealed bid is received, it will be awarded, providing it qualifies, including meeting or topping the appraised prices, he said.

The Flaming Rock sale, which contains 10.2 million board feet of timber, was appraised at $964,000; the 6.8 million-board-foot Smoked Gobbler sale was appraised at $302,000.

The oral auction, held at the BLM’s district office in Medford, drew plenty of would-be purchasers, Nimmo said.

"In visiting with some purchasers afterwards, a lot of them were concerned about what is going to happen with the wholesale market in the next six months," Nimmo said. "There is a lot of speculation that interest rates are going to be bumped up."

Most of the lumber from the salvage sales wouldn’t hit the market until this fall, he said.

But the main issue is the risk of buying the salvage sales, said Dave Hill, executive vice president of the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association.

One risk is the marketability of timber killed nearly two years ago, he said.

"If they were assured they could go out there and log in the middle of May, they would take the risk and make the effort to change logging plans they already have in place," he said.

"But there is no guarantee these sales won’t be held up by appeal or litigation," he added. "The risk is too high."

If a purchaser is stopped from logging the sale until 2005, it would be extremely difficult to find enough marketable wood to pay for the operation, Hill said.

There is sufficient green timber — live trees — now on the market to keep many loggers busy, he said. But some local firms are considering teaming up on a successful bid to spread the risk.

"I personally don’t think there will be a bid," he said. "The risk is too great on these fire-killed trees. And it doesn’t bode well for the Biscuit fire salvage."

Only an emergency declaration by the Forest Service allowing logging on the Biscuit fire this summer would avoid a similar fate, he said.

No Timbered Rock salvage activity would be fine with George Sexton, conservation director for the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. The group has threatened to appeal or litigate the Timbered Rock salvage sales.

"We’re going to make sure that old-growth reserve doesn’t get logged," he said, noting the group is concerned the BLM will drop the price, then subsidize the sales to make sure they are sold.

All of the BLM forest burned by the Timbered Rock fire was designated late-successional reserve. Under the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, LSRs were created to protect and enhance late-successional and old-growth forest ecosystems.

"Anyone who thinks this type of logging is legal is asleep at the wheel," he said. "By any measurement — legally, ecologically, economically — the Timbered Rock sales are a bad idea."

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