District One Fire Commission Public Meeting Headlines New Not News
The District One Fire Commission Public Meeting regarding the developer fee was held Tuesday, according to people who went. It didn’t make it to the Prospect calendar, so we didn’t cover it.
We did talk with people who attended. They are not sworn journalists as we are, and their eyewitness reports might not have the same kind of veracity, but this is what we heard:
Bill Copren insulted a bunch of people, Jerry McCaffery got mad and he was right but nobody would listen to him, the Fire Commission isn’t going to do anything because the Board already passed the ordinance.
None of that is news.
It will be news to some, bye and bye, when volunteer fire departments come under increasing pressure from insurance companies and professional firefighter lobbiests and the county has to suddenly dig deep for fire protection. It won't be news to the readers of Sierra County Prospect, though, so when it happens, this is where we'll post it.
SPI Mill Closures continue
Early in the month the economic life of the region was rocked with word of Sierra Pacific Industry’s closure of the Small Log Mill in Quincy.
Now comes word of two new closures, the mill in Camino and the mill and electrical generation plant in Sonora. About 300 workers will lose their jobs, catapulting them into a growing maw of high unemployment.
SPI’s press release sites the decline in lumber sales and expensive and time consuming environmental and logging regulations which drive up costs. Mark Pawlicki, whose office produced the release, quotes himself as saying:
"First, the downturn in new home construction has reduced both the demand for lumber and the price SPI receives for its finished products. Second, there has been a fall-off in the amount of national forest and private timber for sale in this area, causing uncertainty of supply. Third, the Timber Harvest Plan review process has become so complex and costly that plan approval has slowed dramatically. Further, current law limits harvest plans to a thee-to-five-year maximum time period. This short timeframe forces landowners to harvest timber, even in bad markets. A longer timeframe would provide greater flexibility to harvest timber when market conditions for lumber are more favorable."
There are other forces at play, including a generally bad economy, but anyone who works in the woods or has timber for sale knows that SPI is not exaggerating the problems of forestry regulations in California. Forest activists point to verifiable excesses, and Sierra Pacific is often used as a worst case example, given the company’s love of clear cuts. Still, the thick wad of expensive layers of regulations discourages anything but very large, fast cuts. Like a lot of public agencies, California Division of Forestry and Fire Protection does its job so well it brings about the opposite effect from the one it is after, actually encouraging larger, more complete cuts in order to offset the costs of the timber harvest plan.
If it were cheaper to harvest timber, SPI would be making a profit, and several hundred more people would be working. On the other hand, the trees are still there, getting bigger every day, and SPI still owns them. When the market for logs comes back, they will be for sale, and likely SPI will still mill them. As the owner of 1.9 million acres of timberland, Sierra Pacific lives in an economy of its own.
The unemployed mill and timber workers, though, will not fare so well.
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