Part of Pole Creek Fire salvage

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

Published Dec 14, 2013 at 12:01AM

A Lane County logging operation earlier this month bought timber on a portion of the woods burned more than a year ago by the Pole Creek Fire near Sisters.

Butte Timberlands of Pleasant Hill put in the winning bid of $75,966.95 for about 3 million board feet of timber, said Kristie Miller, district Ranger for the Sisters Ranger District. A larger block of timber, about 8 million board feet, didn’t sell at the Dec. 3 oral auction.

“We didn’t have anyone bid for that one,” she said.

Some timber interests, including the timber manager of a Central Oregon sawmill, said the lack of bidders for the bigger sale likely was the result of how long the wood has sat since the fire in late summer 2012, before going up for sale.

“If they had sold that earlier in the year it would have been a different story, but it was just too late,” said Chuck Burley, timber manager at the Interfor Mill in Gilchrist.

He was interested in timber from the Pole Creek Fire, and representatives of the company even went out to the burn area with U.S. Forest Service Officials to topple some trees and take a look at the wood. He said they found the wood “pretty buggy” and very deteriorated.

“The bottom line is, if you are going to do a salvage, you have to do it faster,” Burley said.

Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council in Portland, agreed. The group represents timber interests in Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana and Washington.

“If they can sell it within a year, hopefully eight to 10 months, they can recapture a lot of the value,” he said.

He said the wood could have sold for twice the price.

The district finalized plans in November for salvage logging on about 1,000 acres of woods charred by the 26,000-acre Pole Creek Fire. It then divided the planned harvest of 11 million board feet of fire-killed trees into the two sales — Pole Creek Salvage and Pole Creek North. Pole Creek Salvage sold and the bigger Pole Creek North remains available for purchase until early January.

To buy the timber in the 791-acre Pole Creek North sale, someone would have to meet the minimum bid requirement of about $56 per million board feet, according to Jean Nelson-Dean, spokeswoman for the Deschutes National Forest. The total volume of the sale is 7.9 million board feet. Miller said she didn’t know why the larger portion of Pole Creek timber didn’t sell.

While he thought about putting in a bid for the Pole Creek North sale, Rick Brewer, manager of Butte Timberlands, said he didn’t have enough time to do the larger logging sale justice.

He said he hopes to start cutting timber from the Pole Creek Salvage sale as soon as possible — hopefully around the start of the new year. The goal is to have the timber cut and hauled off by spring.

Brewer is still lining up where to take the wood. Burley, the Interfor timber manager, said he’s talking to Brewer, but would only be interested in unblemished wood. The mill produces appearance-grade lumber.

Butte Timberlands has a history of buying salvage sales, Brewer said.

“It is a shame these trees died during a fire,” he said, “but it is a bigger tragedy if these trees go to waste.”

The company is involved with another notable sale in Central Oregon that isn’t a salvage. The company is clearing trees on Mount Bachelor to make way for new ski runs at Mt. Bachelor ski area.

The logging there stopped just before the ski season started, Brewer said, and will start again once it’s done.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com