PHOENIX, Ariz. (September 11, 2014) – In towns like Eagar, AZ every job counts. With the closure of the Four Corners Forest Products in mid-August, more members of the small community will be facing unemployment.
“It’s frustrating,” said Kurtis Vaagen, owner of the mill. “We’ve been working hard to help improve the health of Arizona’s forests. The bureaucracy of the Forest Service not only prevents us from helping the forests, but has put our hard working employees out of their jobs.”
The mill brought 18 full-time positions to Eagar, as well as between 30 and 40 logging jobs. For a town like Eagar, with a population of around 5,000, 18 jobs have the same economic impact as 2,500 new jobs in the Greater Phoenix area.
Operations like the Vaagen mill work with the Forest Service to thin acres in the national forest. The act of thinning, which involves removing small diameter trees, allows for the healthy growth of larger trees. Thinning has helped dramatically reduce the damage of recent wildfires in Alpine, Nutrioso, Eagar and Springerville.
With the closure of Four Corners Forest Products in Eager, the Forest Service faces the dilemma of what to do with a collapsing forest products industry.
“The work of the forest products industry is crucial,” said Russell Smoldon, CEO of B3 Strategies, who for many years has worked to promote the healthy development of the forest products industry. “Thinning not only improves the health of our forests, but it also helps to prevent wildfires. Thinning also brings jobs into small communities and has a positive economic impact on them. The forest products industry puts food on the table for families in communities like Eagar, and the decay of the industry will be strongly felt there.”
The closure of Four Corners Forest Products comes in large part from an inability to get the logs that the mill needed to run. The Wallow Fire, which burnt 56,000 NEPA ready acres, the delay of 4FRI, and the failed promise of the Forest Service to “bridge the gap” in timber supply between the White Mountain Stewardship and 4FRI, culminated in a deprivation of logs that slowed the mill’s production to a crawl.
“There is a demand for the products we can create with small diameter logs,” said Vaagen. “If we could have gotten the logs we needed, we could have doubled production and brought twice as many jobs to Eagar. This industry is fragile. As soon as one of us fails, our entire infrastructure faces the threat of collapse. To prevent fires, the forests have to be thinned. If we aren’t doing it, the Forest Service will have to pay to treat the acres. I can’t imagine that’s what the Forest Service wants, and it’s certainly not what the people of Arizona want.”
About B3 Strategies
“Building Public Policy Brick-By-Brick”
Positioned as “The Public Policy Architects,” B3 Strategies, an affiliate of Jennings, Strouss & Salmon law firm, provides clients with the knowledge and tools needed to present, support and implement public policy to address issues affecting their businesses. B3 Strategies leverages relationships with an extensive network of government officials, legislators and the business community to develop and implement public policy strategies at the local state, and federal levels for a wide-range of industries, including those focused on energy, water, taxation, environmental, health care and economic development issues.
About Jennings, Strouss & Salmon
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