Malheur National Forest announces an upcoming stewardship contract

Posted by Renee Magyar on April 16, 2013

Stewardship contracts increase the opportunity for positive economic and ecological outcomes for forestry work.

Collaborative forest group provided input on a new stewardship contract on the Malheur NF

The Malheur National Forest announced last week the decision to offer a large percentage (70-80%) of its annual harvest under a new 10-year stewardship contract that will be awarded in August 2013.

The Forest Service has annual targets for the Malheur of producing a certain amount of logs each year for milling, and restoration by-products (small diameter trees) for creating wood heating fuels and other products. Operating under a stewardship contract increases the opportunity for positive economic and ecological outcomes.

A 10-year contract provides a sawmill with a long-term, predictable supply of logs, which allows for greater incentive to conduct restoration work on the forest, and stability of employment in the communities in and around the forest. Under a stewardship contract, logging and thinning operations will be done based on agreement by a forest collaborative, with input from environmental groups, forest workers, mill representatives, scientists, non-profits, and the Forest Service. Additionally, stewardship contracts can increase the opportunity for the logging, thinning and milling to be performed by local companies.

This announcement is big news for the Blue Mountains Forest Partners, the collaborative group facilitated by Sustainable Northwest, since it represents how effective collaboration can be at moving forestry in the direction of long-term forest and economic security for a surrounding community.

This past summer, John Day, Oregon faced the possibility that their town would suffer significant economic hardship when Malheur Lumber Company - the last remaining mill, and largest employer in the town - was on the brink of closure due to a shortage of logs. Thanks to the strength of the Blue Mountains Forest Partners, regional and national attention led to a short-term solution to the immediate crisis. If this mill or another shuttered mill nearby wins the upcoming contract, it will be a boon for the community and ensure steady operations for the next decade.

It is important to note that this announcement may not be considered good news for everyone in the region since it represents a departure from traditional ways. However, as the Blue Mountain Eagle pointed out in a recent editorial - the one theme that emerged from the stewardship contracting discussions that began last fall is that a 'traditional' forestry approach no longer is working for us, and it hasn't for some time. We can try to hold onto 'business as usual' and watch our remaining mill edge toward closure and our communities die. Or we can help create a new approach that melds the goals of forest health and community survival. This stewardship contract offers us that chance.

Learn more about stewardship contracting here.