Is it time to rethink the Forest Service?


Since the Clinton years, the Forest Service has undergone a great deal of change.  The agency was producing over 12 billion board feet of timber in the late 80’s, and by the mid 90’s that volume dropped to 2 billion.  To provide context, if that were converted to lumber, it would be a difference of approximately 18 billion feet of lumber.  The total consumption of lumber in the United States in 2015 was 44.1 billion board feet.  That’s nearly 41% all the lumber used to build homes, apartments, and other stick-framed structures.  That’s astounding!

Since the change occurred, the Forest Service has been struggling to create an identity.  That identity is unclear, but many of the current Forest Service employees want to do more for the land.  What does that mean?  Many of the leaders and line officers are doing their best to work with collaborative groups to develop management plans that work for everyone.  I applaud the efforts.  Praise notwithstanding, I wonder if those efforts will be enough? Continue reading “Is it time to rethink the Forest Service?”

Committed to Collaboration


As changes starting happening with the transition of our government, many things are going to be drastically different than they have been for the past 24 years.  Why 24 years?  That was the last time we had the type of seismic change.  I know, George W. Bush was the 43rd President, and he was a Republican and ran things much differently than President Obama.  The shift of people (appointees, heads of agencies, etc.major) in Washington hasn’t been this disruptive since President Clinton took over from George H. W. Bush in 1994.  I know there significant changes between President Carter and President Reagan, but I’m not old enough to remember that.  What’s my point?

Continue reading “Committed to Collaboration”

Recreation wrapped in wood

In the last blog post, I didn’t get a good chance to wrap the story of recreation and forest management together as well as I should have.  I don’t believe that every acre should be managed and I don’t think every acre should be thinned.  Different management techniques that can and should be used to manage forests.  When it comes to our national forests in the United States, thinning is a great tool to use.  We desperately need to reduce the fuel loads in the forests.  We have too many trees.  I saw a report yesterday that the most recent tree tally of the United States came to 96.6 billion trees with a diameter of at least 5 inches.  That means trees outnumber people 300 to 1 in the US.  Continue reading “Recreation wrapped in wood”

Outdoor Recreation, Forest Management

For those of us in forest management, outdoor recreation and managing our forests go hand in hand.  I don’t know that it is seen the same way by outdoor recreation enthusiasts, but it should.  When you get down to the interests of both, the similarities are striking in my opinion.  People that work in forests/mountains/woods love nature.  They love the forest, and they want to see it used and protected.  I can’t think of an outdoor recreation enthusiast that doesn’t share those same interests.  Historically both groups haven’t been on the same page when it comes to forest management.  I think that needs to change and will soon.

Let me share with you a story.  A backcountry hiker and outdoor lover booked his vacation time.  His job as a relationship manager at a major bank gives him 4 weeks of paid vacation and this is his big summer trip.  This trip was scheduled for August 2016.  He’s meeting up with his brother, and they are taking his son on his first multiday backpacking adventure.  Continue reading “Outdoor Recreation, Forest Management”

Why do I blog?

Do you ever get that feeling that you have things to say, but it’s not getting to enough people?  That is what turned me on to blogging.  I enjoy speaking to large groups and sharing the stories of our family business, forest collaboration, forest restoration, cross laminated timber, legislation, and others, but something was missing.  Those settings are great, and it allows you to connect with people.  Unfortunately, every person in the audience whether it’s 30, 300, or 3,000 represents a number of other people with shared interests that aren’t in the room. Continue reading “Why do I blog?”

Tell the forest story

In a recent visit to EPCOT in Orlando Florida, I had the pleasure of watching “The American Adventure.”  It’s a look back at how the United States was formed and the influences that got us to where we are today.  Everything Disney is amazing and this show is no exception.  The show is an inspiring look back at the events and people that make America what it is.  One part caught my attention as it pertains to forests.  There was a scene where the two figures were Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir. Continue reading “Tell the forest story”

Dual Citizen?

It’s not entirely rare for me to get calls from reporters.  It tends to happen locally when either our company or the collaborative that I’m a part of is in the news.  I enjoy the opportunity to tell the story.  If you’ve ever been quoted in the newspaper, you start to see very quickly that the news is often based on how the reporter either interprets what you said or how that reporter wanted to use what you said to support their slant on the story.   After writing this blog, I have a new appreciation for creating content.  It must be a difficult task to do every day with a deadline.  There are times, once in a while, where you see a reporter that is either in a hurry or just has decided not to do their homework.

That happened to me the other day.  I received a call from a reporter from a newspaper in Montana.  I’ve done a considerable amount of work in Montana and know the state pretty well.  The reporter said that he had been following a blog that has subsequently picked up some of my writings.  Then he said something that caught my attention, but I didn’t immediately think much of it.  He said he was doing a year-end article on forest products companies “down here” in Montana.  I thought it was funny, as I live in Washington.  Although where he was located in the state was geographically southeast of where I’m from it’s still not the way I’d expect to hear it described.  He went on to say a few things about the forests and lumber trade.  Then he said it.

The area in question

Continue reading “Dual Citizen?”

Softwood goes deeper than just lumber

Small logs on the winter roads

Reading more about what the experts from both sides of the border are saying about the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) I see common threads.  If you read the Canadian take, you see that governments of Canada, Provinces, in particular, are doing whatever they can to support their mills.  This is evidenced by Quebec Premier Phillipe Couillard stating that the provincial government is prepared to provide Canadian lumber companies with loan guarantees.  I don’t fault them.  Actually, I think it’s great.  They should support them.   One thing I don’t hear is the empathy for similar situations that have been going on in communities on the south side of the political line.

Mill towns in the US have gone out of business and auctioned off while Canadian Producers invested in the US South.  This is an interesting Continue reading “Softwood goes deeper than just lumber”

Softwood Lumber Agreement: a tale of different values

Following last week’s post, I’ve had time to think about this issue.  There are so many parts to the SLA (acronym insiders use).  Some of which can be addressed in an agreement and much of it that cannot.  It’s been my opinion for some time that the Canadian producers get hit with this duty because the US Government can’t get out of its own way.  Think about it.  The US Government has to impose a duty and/or quota system to protect US mills from lower pricing pressure.  In many cases because the mills don’t have an affordable supply of logs. And in many areas, not even enough logs to run a mill.   Isn’t interesting that now the US Forest Service is now trying to figure out what to do with logs in many market areas?

Let’s contrast how the two countries operate their respective Forest Industries:

USA and Canada value their forests differently

Continue reading “Softwood Lumber Agreement: a tale of different values”

Softwood Lumber Agreement

A publication asked me to provide some comments, anonymously about the pending Softwood Lumber agreement between the US and Canada.  I include what I provided, and I’m going to add some of my ideas that might make a better solution than anything I hear from other sources.  I hope this helps enlighten some people on the subject.

Vaagen Bros Lumber has production facilities on both sides of the border with mills in Colville and Usk Washington as well as Midway BC, Canada. The reason this issue is complicated is due to the raw material: Logs. Even though the Canadian process is more open and competitive than ever when it comes to logs, Canadian producers still have an advantage over most of the US producers. That advantage is that the Canadian government continues to manage its forests through up and down markets. The price for those logs follows the market up and down, but for the most part, the flow of logs is maintained. Continue reading “Softwood Lumber Agreement”