A recent article in The Herald (“Innovative Everett timber firm ships ‘canned’ logs to Asia,” April 10) detailed the Small Business Administration’s recognition of Forest Marketing (Formark) as the region’s Exporter of the Year.
Formark’s plan to use shipping containers to send logs to Asia might seem innovative, but there is nothing new or admirable about what their efforts mean for struggling U.S. sawmills. While exporting logs is legal from private lands, there is a reason federal and state laws do not allow log exports from public land. Log exports reduce the number of logs available to local sawmills like our operation in Darrington — mills that create significantly more family-wage jobs than ports do storing logs and loading ships.
Sawmills throughout the Pacific Northwest are closing due to the shutdown of federal forests and the surge in log exports to China. Recently, the long-running Seattle-Snohomish sawmill outside Everett was forced to lay off 100 employees and auction off the mill because of the log shortage. When sawmills close in rural Washington the social fabric of these communities is torn apart.
While Formark is free to handle logs for export, they shouldn’t be able to access federal loans to do so, and we should not assume their business model is good for Washington.
Make no mistake, exporting logs creates a net loss in the state’s employment levels and results in a multitude of missed opportunities for value-added manufacturing in secondary industries like pulp and paper. As a state and a nation, we should be wiser about how we use our natural resources and which economic activities we support and celebrate.
plant manager, Hampton Lumber