Ochoco Lumber Co. was founded in 1927 to work the vast Ponderosa Pine forests of the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon, and in 1983, Ochoco Lumber owner, John Shelk, formed Malheur Lumber Co. in John Day. Today, Malheur Lumber Co. (MLC) draws our raw product primarily from the Malheur National Forest in Grant and Harney counties.
Sourcing raw product for our mills has not always been easy. Tightening timber supplies forced us to consider closing MLC, and we knew that if we wanted to remain in the timber business, we would need to do things differently and to work with people with diverse points of view. That’s why Malheur Lumber Co. has been a member of the Blue Mountains Forest Partners since its founding in 2006.
Our company believed then, and is even more committed now, that collaboration among timber interests, the conservation community, local residents, elected government officials and the Forest Service — which manages about 72 percent of the land base in Grant and Harney counties — was our only option if we wanted to survive into the future. Thankfully, these other stakeholders held a similar view, even though our opinions of a “healthy forest” or “responsible forest management” may have differed at the outset.
Working together, unemployment numbers in Grant and Harney counties have dropped from 14 percent and 11.7 percent, respectively to 6 percent and 5.3 percent. MLC has been able to maintain our operations, increase employment, and are moving forward with investments in our facility to more efficiently process raw logs coming from our stewardship projects.
We have helped develop and implement a 10-year stewardship contract that represents 86 percent of the private employment within the industry, and all existing wood manufacturing infrastructure, within Grant and Harney counties. Ongoing research is telling us that the Malheur is already more resilient to future wildfire and the effects of climate change as a result of our restoration work.
There are currently 27 collaboratives operating in Oregon to encourage restoration of public lands. The aim is to facilitate compromise and consensus. Contrary to the perspective of someone who has never attended a partners’ meeting (Forest collaboratives need to welcome all input, 8/25/17), in our experience, the partners regularly solicit the views of all stakeholders who seek to productively and respectfully advance forest restoration and community well-being on the Malheur National Forest. That’s the “Oregon Way,” and it works.
Bruce Daucsavage is president of Ochoco and Malheur Lumber companies.