June 21, 2013
Last summer, the State of Washington salvaged 10.7 million board feet of timber of the 400,000 acres that burned. That’s more timber than the U.S. Forest Service has sold in the entire region this year (9.6 million board feet), and they have yet to salvage a single acre that was burned.
Fire salvage efforts net 10.7 million board feet of timber
By Andy Matarrese
Timber salvage efforts on state land charred by last summer’s Table Mountain Fire have yielded 10.7 million board feet of timber, up from the 9.3 million the state Department of Natural Resources originally expected, according to the DNR’s Ken McNamee.
McNamee, manager for the Southeast Region’s Alpine District, said he expects harvesting in the Naneum Ridge State Forest to continue through the month.
So far, the salvage operation has gone through about 1,650 acres of the 1,792 acres set aside for the sale.
The fire burned 42,310 acres, or about 66 square miles, north of Ellensburg in September. Of that, 9,000 acres is managed by DNR.
Depending on the timber, buyers have paid anywhere from about $350 per 1,000 board feet to $625 per 1,000 board feet, he said.
Between different sales, word got out the wood was still in good shape, McNamee said, so early buyers were outbid later.
The weather was cooperative, so blue rot and bugs didn’t damage the wood.
“We’ve been kind of lucky on that front,” he said.
The DNR places money from timber sales and other revenue sources drawn from public land into trust funds that mostly benefit education. For this sale, the department keeps 25 cents of every dollar made and another goes to a school construction fund.
“The biggest thing about this is this is a real success story on how collaboration can and will work,” he said.
McNamee had people out inspecting the salvage area, working with multiple incident management teams and fire and natural resource agencies, sometimes while firefighters were still working, to plan the sale.
Agency foresters assessed the burned area, taking into account ease of access, timber quality after the fire and work restrictions for protecting habitat or riparian areas.
McNamee said the fire didn’t damage the wood enough to turn off mills, which won’t take even moderately burned lumber.
Buyers included businesses as far away as Colville and Elgin, Ore., he said.
“This operation provided a lot of good work for two, full months for a lot of people from Kittitas, Yakima and Chelan count(ies),” he said. “There’s a lot of local folks that had a good winter this year because of the sale.”
McNamee gave a presentation on the sale to Kittitas County Commissioners Obie O’Brien and Gary Berndt on Wednesday. O’Brien asked McNamee to address possible futures for the timber industry in general in Kittitas County.
“If we ever get something back, it’s probably going to be smaller scale, and it’s not just going to cut boards, it’s probably going to burn hog fuel, and it may make pallets or chips or pellets or something like that,” McNamee said. “What we want to do is continue these folks ... coming here to buy our wood, and so far they’ve been pretty good about that.”
O’Brien asked if there were any efforts to do salvage operations in burned sections of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
McNamee said there have been talks through the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative — a group coordinating the Yakama Nation, Forest Service and state Department of Natural Resources and private landowners — to find ways to bring in the U.S. Forest Service and their large tracts of wooded land.
McNamee said he had heard it would take 20 million to 40 million board feet of timber annually to entice a company to set up a timber facility locally.
The Forest Service is the key, McNamee said, “because they have the supply.”
The DNR, WDFW and private owners don’t have enough land to inspire confidence to build mills, he said.
“But I don’t know all of the regulations or the hoops that they have to go through,” he said. “I’m hoping they’ll look over the backyard fence and see what we did, because they’ve had some tough times with salvage.”