Plumas town to lose 150 jobs as mill shuts (link to Story)

By Jane Braxton Little
Bee correspondent
Published: Wednesday, Mar. 4, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 5B

QUINCY – Sierra Pacific Industries is closing its small-log mill in Quincy, eliminating about 150 jobs in this Plumas County town.
Officials of the Anderson-based timber company blamed the challenging lumber market as well as protracted litigation over timber harvests on nearby national forest lands.

"We are deeply saddened over this announcement, as many hard-working, dedicated employees who have been with the company for a long time will be unemployed," said Matt Taborski, Sierra Pacific's Quincy-area manager.

The shutdown, scheduled for May 4, is the first closure of a Sierra Pacific sawmill since 2004, when it permanently shuttered its facility in Susanville for a loss of about 150 jobs. Three years before that, the Loyalton sawmill in Sierra County closed, putting 180 employees out of work.

The Quincy facility is part of a two-mill complex, said Mark Pawlicki, a spokesman for the family-owned company. The closure affects the section that cuts small-diameter logs, he said.

The large-mill facility, which produces lumber for domestic consumption and an adjacent biomass electrical generation plant, will remain in operation, keeping about 160 workers employed, Pawlicki said.

Although Sierra Pacific owns about 1.9 million acres of timberland in California and Washington, the Quincy sawmill relies on national forest timber sales for its raw materials.

The company built the small-diameter sawmill in the 1990s when company officials believed the Quincy Library Group, a local community coalition, would influence federal legislation that would generate the sale of small-diameter logs from the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe national forests.

The Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act passed in 1998, promoting a program of widespread forest thinning to reduce the threat of wildfires, but the promised volume of small-diameter logs has not materialized.

The program approved by Congress and now entering its 10th year has achieved less than 20 percent of its volume goals, Pawlicki said.
He blamed appeals and lawsuits brought by "environmental activists."

Nearly two-thirds of the current year's timber sale program is under a court injunction or withheld from sale pending the outcome of litigation, he said.
Craig Thomas, executive director of Sierra Forest Legacy who has been involved in several of these lawsuits, said it is the housing market, not litigation, that is harming the timber industry.

With no demand for homes, there is little demand for lumber, he said.

Company officials informed workers at the Quincy mill of the closure Friday. They will consider these employees for other potential opportunities within the company, Pawlicki said.


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