| On Monday, Governor Brian Schweitzer emerged from a closed-door meeting at Smurfit-Stone's Frenchtown mill, looked right into a video camera and declared, "If we can harvest 15,000 acres of the 2 million acres of dead and dying [trees] that we've got on federal land in Montana we can keep this mill open." See video clip @ http://www.missoulian.com/arti...
This is just the latest in a long-line of claims from the timber industry and some politicians that more public lands logging is the solution to the industry's woes, despite the fact that demand for lumber, paper and packaging products is at historic lows and many mills simply cannot even sell the products they currently have on hand.
A careful video viewer will also notice that the governor didn't really seem comfortable making such a profound statement. I wonder why? Could it be because Schweitzer knows that right now on just the Lolo and Bitterroot National Forests there are 15,000 acres worth of timber sales that are already through the environmental review process, with no appeals and litigation slowing them down, that could be logged anytime this summer? Could it be that the governor remembered mid-interview that the Forest Service recently identified $126 million worth of "shovel ready" fuel reduction work on National Forests in Montana and Idaho as part of the stimulus bill? Time will tell if the timber industry will even bid on any of these projects, or if taxpayers will be forced to give away public timber for next to nothing.
What's even more bizarre about Schweitzer's claim is that Smurfit filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, not because the company couldn't log an additional 15,000 acres of national forests in Montana, but because the economic downturn has greatly reduced demand for Smurfit's products.
To put Smurfit's current financial situation in perspective, in 1998 a single share of Smurfit stock sold for $25.00 a share, today a share is worth three cents, a whopping 99.9% reduction in value. And let's not forget that Smurfit is a large, multi-national corporation with 150 facilities in the US, Canada, Mexico and Asia. If you look at map of their facilities, it's clear that only a small fraction are anywhere near national forests.
To assume that Smurfit's future success depends upon more logging from national forests is as much wishful thinking as it is irresponsible, especially in light of this tremendous economic crisis, which is so clearly rooted in over-consumption and over-development.
Fact is, Smurfit is a large multi-national corporation that has expanded too much. They need a new business model truly based on sustainability, not more public lands logging to do more of the same.