Building demand through community energy

Posted by Renee Magyar on November 11, 2014

Oregon promotes wood energy clusters, creating demand to support forest restoration. Article by Pellet Mill Magazine

Bruce Daucsavage and a John Day resident examine the new Grant Union High School pellet boiler. Photo by Wisewood, Inc.

By Susanne Retka Schill, Managing Editor, Pellet Mill Magazine

Today, Bruce Daucsavage has more wood fiber than he knows what to do with. But, it was only a couple of years ago that after running out of timber supply from the nearby national forest for the third time in the past decade, Daucsavage, president of Malheur Lumber Co., decided to close the last sawmill in Grant County located in John Day, Ore. “Those were dark days,” he recalls. A week after his announcement, he was called into Sen. Ron Wyden’s office where 50 people wanted to hear what it would take to keep the mill going. There were state and federal officials, foresters, environmentalists.

That was 2012. The closing of Malheur Lumber threatened to halt progress in a collaborative effort begun in 2006 to bring together often-at-odds groups with very different ideas on how to manage the Malheur National Forest. After several devastating forest fires, foresters and environmental groups were beginning to agree that forests need to be managed differently to reduce fire hazards and foster healthier forests. The closing of several mills during the recession meant local and state governments were interested in saving jobs and stimulating economic development. For Malheur Lumber, staying in business meant stabilizing wood supply so it could continue to manufacture the pine boards needed by its long-time customers in the window manufacturing business.

Within a year, contracts on a 10-year stewardship plan for forest restoration were signed, and now, a year and a half into the contract, Daucsavage is looking for ways to utilize the abundant fiber supply. “Our forest stewardship contract, a $69 million 10-year agreement, is being looked at as a model of forest management nationally,” Daucsavage says. The concept is controversial, he adds. Only about 30 percent of industry nationwide supports the concept, and local governments are wary. While county governments get a percentage of timber sales in the old system, under the relatively new stewardship contracts they lose that. For Grant County, though, saving jobs and seeing its unemployment rate cut in half counterbalanced any loss in timber shares, he adds.

Ensuring a fiber supply is only one part of the challenge...continue reading at Pellet Mill Magazine.