Sierra Pacific mill closure blamed on
economy, environmental suits (link to Story)

By David Benda (Contact)
Wednesday, March 4, 2009

QUINCY - Blaming environmental litigation and market conditions, Sierra Pacific Industries will close its small-log sawmill in Quincy on May 4.

The nation's second-largest lumber producer informed employees late Monday.

About 150 employees will be laid off as a result of the closure. About 160 workers will remain employed at Sierra Pacific's large-log facility and biomass electrical generation plant in Quincy.

Sierra Pacific spokesman Mark Pawlicki said the company will try to relocate some employees.

"We have done that in the past, but it's not a real good time. ... We are not expanding anywhere," Pawlicki said.

The news was devastating to Quincy, the incorporated seat of Plumas County. Quincy has about 5,000 residents.

"It was very distressing news," Plumas County Supervisor Lori Simpson said. "It will have a major effect. ... It will affect the lives of all those employees and economically it will affect our local businesses, our schools. It will have a ripple effect."

Simpson said Sierra Pacific is one of Plumas County's largest private employers.

The Sierra Pacific sawmill in Quincy dates back to 1964, when it was Feather River Lumber. Sierra Pacific bought the mill in the 1970s. The timber company added a small-log mill in 1996, two years before Congress passed the Quincy Library Forest Recovery Act.

The Quincy mills rely heavily on the sale of national forest timber for their raw material, Pawlicki said. But lawsuits have brought the forest thinning projects made possible by the Quincy Library Act to a virtual halt.

"So it's the worst of all worlds - the forests are not being made healthy ... and we can't run the mill, so we're laying off employees," Pawlicki said.

Mill employees in Quincy, most of whom are members of the Carpenters Union, are paid, on average, between $15 and $20 an hour, Pawlicki said.

A critic of Sierra Pacific's logging practices, Craig Thomas, executive director of the Sierra Forest Legacy, said the economy is the reason for the mill closure and not environmental lawsuits.

"There is no market for lumber because there is no market for houses," Thomas said. "And I don't think that will be changing for a while."

The Sierra Forest Legacy is a Sacramento-based nonprofit coalition of environmental groups, including The Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club.

If environmental lawsuits truly were to blame for Sierra Pacific's mill closing, the company wouldn't be closing down the small-log operation, said Doug Bevington, forest program director for Environment Now in Santa Monica. Instead, it would be shuttering its larger log mill because most of the lawsuits focus on old growth harvests.

Pawlicki said the lawsuits and the depressed lumber market doomed the small-log mill in Quincy, which won't support the additional cost of hauling logs to Quincy.

"We are hauling logs over 100 miles. In a stronger market you can do that, but in a weak market you can't," Pawlicki said. "So we are going to run out of logs in two months."

In January, Sierra Pacific cut the work week at its mills in Burney, Quincy and Sonora to 32 hours as a result of the slumping housing market. The three mills employ a combined 670 people.

Sierra Pacific also eliminated the third shift at its Anderson sawmill in January, a move that eliminated 24 jobs.

The Western Wood Products Association estimates U.S. lumber demand this year will fall to 35 billion board feet, the lowest since 1982.

Plumas County Supervisor Simpson will go to Washington, D.C., next week to meet with the staffs of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks.

Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, and Feinstein shepherded the Quincy Library Group Act.

Simpson's meeting was scheduled before Sierra Pacific announced it was closing a mill in Quincy.

"But this will be a perfect time to talk to them about these desperate issues," Simpson said.

Reporter David Benda can be reached at 225-8219 or at

Reporter Dylan Darling contributed to this story.



Posted by xanadu on March 3, 2009 at 11:40 a.m.

The environuts are probably smiling thinking what a great job they did to preserve our environment... I hope you can help out the unemployed that result from this so please make your donations to the organizations the provide relief to the unemployed.

This is going to be a long hard ride for many of us... need to tighten the belt.

Posted by Treebones on March 3, 2009 at 12:01 p.m.

in response to xanadu

Mill work is grinding to a halt because of the economy. To blame enviros right now just seems to be a cheap parting shot. Mills just can't sell boards right now.

Posted by AnonymousAgain on March 3, 2009 at 12:04 p.m.

in response to xanadu

There are three food banks in the area. I highly recommend anyone donating to enviromental action groups stop donating to them and instead make their donations to the food banks and such, so hopefully the workers can continue their lives up there, instead of having to relocate down to the cities.
Lassen Modoc Food Bank 257-4884
Indian Valley Food Pantry 284-6353
Portola Food Bank 832-4570.

These folks may need help with electric bills, etc. Maybe the food bank folks can give some referals.

Posted by MOJ on March 3, 2009 at 12:07 p.m.

in response to Treebones

That was only part of the blame. The portion of the mill may not have closed if they had access to timber in that area. It doesn't make good business sense to spend more money hauling the timber in than what you would be paid for it. It's sad so many people lost their jobs. I understand the want and need to protect the environment, but what better renewable energy source is there?

Posted by AnonymousAgain on March 3, 2009 at 12:20 p.m.

Sierra Club's attornies are filthy rich now, and so are the other enviromental attornys groups. When you donate to them, you donate to rich attornies. When you donate to local food banks and such, at least it goes in large part to the displaced workers and those in need

Posted by randy on March 3, 2009 at 12:35 p.m.

in response to AnonymousAgain

If not for the continued efforts of Sierra Club and the community of people that cannot stand by and watch the corporate pillage of our planet, we would all be in much worse shape than we are now. Your grandchildren will be grateful for the efforts of the people struggling to stop the race to the bottom of global resources.

Posted by randy on March 3, 2009 at 12:45 p.m.

in response to AnonymousAgain

All the attorneys I have seen involved in environmental cases work for reduced fees or donate the work because of the grass roots nature of environmentalism. Most "environmentalists" are citizens and residents that are being adversely effected by wealthy corporate powers and band together for survival. Can you tell us who got rich and how much they made? I think you are just throwing BS and hoping some will stick on blank wall paper.

Posted by AnonymousAgain on March 3, 2009 at 12:51 p.m.

It's not BS, the families of the unemployeed need the donations far worse than the environmental PACs.

Posted by AnonymousAgain on March 3, 2009 at 1:23 p.m.

Look at the salaries of the CEO and CFO of the Sierra Club. Between 150k and 200k.

Grassroots my rear. Their retained attornies are worth millions, and even their interns are well paid.

More economic harm to Northern California has been caused by them than by anything or anyone else.

And our local forests are essentially in the same condition they were 20 years ago. Sierra Club did nothing to better them.

People's donations are much better spent on the local needy than San Francisco attornies.

Posted by randy on March 3, 2009 at 1:28 p.m.

in response to AnonymousAgain
I do agree with your position that there are local people that need our donations more than wealthy lawyers. What I don't agree with is the claim that lawyers and environmentalists are profiting from their efforts to protect our environment from being ravaged by corporate interests.

Posted by randy on March 3, 2009 at 1:38 p.m.

in response to AnonymousAgain

Personally, I gave up my Sierra Club membership when the Sierra Club chastised a mid west chapter for making a stand against the contamination of Iraq by the US spreading depleted uranium everywhere. As for a $150,000 salary, that is not much compared with the multi-million dollar salaries of the corporate ceo's and their lobbyists. Your claim that our local forest are the same as they were 20 years ago shows just how little you know about our local forests. Check out actual photos of what is taking place in our local forests on this web site.

Posted by BO on March 3, 2009 at 1:49 p.m.

Well I've heard from more than a few people that SPI hires people (NOT locals) to poison the oak trees on their property-people who have seen it first hand.
And that is pretty screwed up, but maybe someone from SPI can chime in here and explain this.

Posted by AnonymousAgain on March 3, 2009 at 1:54 p.m.

This housing market that collapsed that created this economic mess we are in, wasn't the home price bubble that burst due to hyper inflated lumber prices? Who's legislation caused that? And why are so many companies moving out of California?

At least we agree on who needs the money the most.

SPI closing their Quincy Mill is going to not only hurt those 150 families, but severly impact the Quincy area's economy and vendors. I guess some will move to Redding and Chico to add to the numbers of unemployed in those cities.

Posted by BO on March 3, 2009 at 1:58 p.m.

There must've been some reason for the enviros to file a lawsuit against this idea. Maybe they just wanted to cut down the big trees to make profit. I'll bet they could find a way to still thin, keep people employed, and reduce the fire danger without destroying the forests. Is there some way they can still keep people employed doing this? Why doesn't Mark at SPI look into some of the economic stimulus to see if there is money for protection of water supplies and get some grants to just go in and cut only small diameter just to keep these people employed. Geez SPI, get creative and help out the hardworking people that help you out, don't just lay them off and forget about them.

Posted by gamerjohn on March 3, 2009 at 2:04 p.m.

Griping about the wages of the Sierra Club forgets the Red Emmerson is the only billionaire in the area. I can see his mansion along the river when I fish. SPI has provided many jobs over the years along with other mills. Whether the lumber will be needed in the future will depend on many factors.

Posted by jgebo on March 3, 2009 at 2:10 p.m.

The sad thing is that the forests are in desparate need of being thinned. Why anyone would be against this is beyond me. It certainly isn't good for the environment to not do this. Of course sanity and reason play no part in the agenda of todays environmentalists. Truly sad what they are now doing...there was once a time that their voice was of reason...unfortunately that day has passed us long ago.

Posted by InTheSwim on March 3, 2009 at 2:14 p.m.

in response to randy

This story is concerning a sawmill that was dependent on a continuous Federal supply of timber. Not clearcutting. Unfortunately a great deal of time, effort and the values of the affected community reflected in the Quincy Library Group agreement were not allowed to be fully implemented. Environmental Groups have litigated Plumas County residents into greater threat of wildfire, poor forest health and now unemployment.

Posted by jgebo on March 3, 2009 at 2:35 p.m.

in response to InTheSwim

All true...this is what the environmentalists of today want...they don't want people living in the forests...they want us all to live in the metro areas.

Posted by Couper on March 3, 2009 at 2:36 p.m.

I've read every comment and I'm thinking what is wrong here?
In a time when our Country is in the worst recession ever ( I didn't say depression) and unemployment is at an all time high, drought conditions and so on. I don't understand why comments are being made about people being wealthy, the companies ceo salaries, sparying products on oak trees, attornies, etc....
The topic at hand is 160 more people with families are going to be unemployed and at this point don't have a clue what their future holds. They'll loose their insurance benefits, retirements, 401ks, self respect. In their profession their mill workers, with that where would they relocate? What other mill or facilty is operating full capacity at this time? There are none...
Every mill operating today has cut shifts, hourly wages, 32 hr work week, changing benifits to where the employee pays more and so. It has gotten so bad that everyone, I mean everone is holding their breath hoping that their not the next ones to go down. So again I ask where would they relocate? Families, these poor families whom are trying like hell to make it just got the pink slip of the day, and you suggest food banks?
All YOU want to talk about is the politices of deforresting and ceos, attornies and other crap. When you recieve your next paycheck say a lil prayer cause that's what all the rest of us are doing that have spouses in the lumber industries.
Nope I don't follow "The look em up picture stuff" nor do I care about who makes what or what a land owner does to his own property to much government involvement anyway.
I care about the people, working class people.
I just wish for once when there is a heartening story, commenators would stay true to the topic/subject at hand, and show some class.
I know this sounds like someone just going off, but walk in our shoes, feel our stress, and I'll show more class.
The spouse of an Serria Pacific Employee and praying everyday for this recession to come to a speedy end for all of us.
Thank you for reading this...

Posted by alumni_pine_st_school on March 3, 2009 at 5:10 p.m.

All mills are slow due to the economy and slowdown of building.
Red Emmerson is just laying all the blame on the environmentalists.
Quincy is a very nice small town and surley the layoffs will hurt some businesses.

Posted by stu_padasol on March 3, 2009 at 5:57 p.m.

in response to InTheSwim

I can remember the pre-QLG crisis in Quincy when the teachers were being laid-off because the environmentalist got their wish, shutting down most logging on the NF. Didn't figure on the lost of revenue to Plumas County's from the taxation on federal timberland. As to the comment on SPI only wanting big (old growth) timber, that commentor needs to re-read the article. It's a SMALL LOG mill being closed in Quincy. Big timber comes from private lands, not the NF. Strict regulations basically stopped all big timber cutting on the NF.

Posted by stu_padasol on March 3, 2009 at 6:03 p.m.

Revision, sorry about the edit (I need to proof read)

I can remember the pre-QLG crisis in Quincy when the teachers were being laid-off because the environmentalist got their wish, shutting down most logging on the NF. Didn't figure on the lost of revenue to Plumas County's Department of Education from the taxation on federal timberland. As to the comment on SPI only wanting big (old growth) timber, that commentor needs to re-read the article. It's a SMALL LOG mill being closed in Quincy. Big timber comes from private lands, not the NF. Strict regulations basically stopped all big timber cutting on the NF.

Posted by norcalforestry on March 4, 2009 at 9:56 a.m.

Maybe SPI could relocate the small log mill to their Susanville site. There has been quite a bit of QLG associated logging (small logs) on the Lassen NF in recent years.

Posted by Truth1st on March 4, 2009 at 10:29 a.m.

Let's get the facts straight, since the Record Searchlight basically just regurgitated SPI's press release. They don't mention the fact that the Forest Service, under the Bush administration, pushed aside the law so they could log in areas that had already been thinned--going after the last of the big trees and endangering the survival of wildlife.

Environmentalists are painted as the bad guys--again--when in reality, the Forest Service could have provided lots of timber for the industry and protect wildlife habitat, too.

The crash of SPI is related to their role in building massive subdivisions all over the state, making a killing, while innocent working class people were offered loans with in interest they could never pay.

SPI should have closed the mill that processes large trees, but instead closed the small tree mill--because those trees cost more to cut and process. The big trees can be whacked and stacked, while they wait out the recession. SPI doesn't care at all about those 150 workers--they only care about the bottom line. Ask anyone who works for them.

Posted by DoseOfReality on March 4, 2009 at 12:49 p.m.

in response to Truth1st

SPI only cares about their bottom line? And, what's wrong with that? Isn't that what a business is supposed to care about? Don't you wish your government, and elected officials cared about the bottom line?

Do you think that SPI is some sort of social program? Did you NOT know that, as a business, in a capitalist country, (for the next few months anyway) the DUTY of a company is to BE PROFITABLE?

Do you have a problem with profit, comrade?

Do you work for a living (profit) or do you live on the dole?

Posted by Truth1st on March 4, 2009 at 1:26 p.m.

in response to DoseOfReality

I do have a problem with pursuit of larger profits, while destroying our forests, polluting water, contributing to global warming and increasing fire hazard. A company can make a profit while still providing security for their employees, and protecting the environment.

Posted by BO on March 4, 2009 at 8:01 p.m.

in response to DoseOfReality

Geez man, calm down.
When they are talking about logging on National Forests it is land that belongs to all of us.

Posted by Firestorm on March 5, 2009 at 12:58 p.m.

its ok.. the trees SPI didn't cut will burn in uncontrollable wildfires (that spew gases into the atmosphere that cause "global warming"... )

Hope the nuts are happy.. seeing as we are in a drought still - and the trees are going to die anyway due to infestation problems, and one loose spark or lightning strike will "clearcut" it all away.