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Boise Cascade to stop old-growth logging

March 15, 2002

Environmental pressure didn't affect decision, CEO says

After years of dueling with environmentalists, Boise Cascade Inc. has decided it will phase out its old-growth harvest over the next two years.

No formal announcement was made, but the new policy was posted on the company´s Web site this week.

CEO George Harad confirmed the decision Thursday.

For nearly two years, the Rainforest Action Network, an environmental group, has waged a campaign against Boise Cascade, calling the Boise company the
"dinosaur of the logging industry" for continuing to cut trees in old-growth forests.

Environmentalists say 94 percent of America´s original old-growth forests -- with giant trees that can be several hundred years old -- have already been lost, and that the rest should be preserved to protect biodiversity and ensure the survival of creatures such as spotted owls.

But Harad said the company´s decision wasn´t based on pressure from environmentalists.

"They can say whatever they´re going to say," Harad said. "Our decision had much more to do with the direction the Forest Service is going and the sales that would be offered."

He said that given the current direction of federal forest policy, which already was phasing out old growth sales, the company decided the time was right to start to phase out old-growth harvesting.

"We will fulfill what contracts we have, but in 18 to 24 months, we will be completely out," he said.

Harad said old-growth trees accounted for only about half of 1 percent of the company´s total timber harvest last year.

"It´s not material to our operations," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Rainforest Action Network -- known as RAN by timber industry officials and environmentalists -- said that despite the company´s decision, the campaign against Boise Cascade would continue.

"We´re not buying it," Jennifer Krill, RAN´s old-growth campaign director, said of the company´s decision. "Honestly, we don´t think it represents any meaningful change."

Krill said eliminating old-growth harvesting in the United States is only one of several goals her group has in its campaign against Boise Cascade.

Krill maintains that Boise Cascade is guilty of buying and distributing old-growth forest products from endangered old-growth forests throughout Canada, Central and South America and Southeast Asia.

Boise Cascade denies those allegations.

Harad said Boise Cascade would be willing to sit down and try to come to a compromise with the Rainforest Action Network if the group would admit it has been spreading false allegations about the company.

"Our view is unless we can put a stop to that, and they admit the statements are false, there is no basis to build a relationship," Harad said.

Krill said her organization stands by its claims. She said the company could resolve many of them if it would adopt a "chain of custody" policy

that would allow any customer who buys a product to know exactly where the raw materials for that product came from.

"Without a chain of custody, there´s no way of knowing if they are telling the truth," Krill said.

A company spokesman, Mike Moser, said the "chain of custody" issue wasn´t even mentioned in the first set of demands RAN gave to Boise Cascade nearly two years ago.

The battle between the Rainforest Action Network and Boise Cascade shows no signs of abating. Krill said her organization continues to target Boise Cascade customers, urging them to confront Boise Cascade on the old-growth issue.

Recently, Boise Cascade lost a contract with Kinko´s, the world´s largest
copy center chain. RAN leaders said Boise Cascade lost the contract because its position on old-growth forest practices didn´t comply with Kinko´s environmental position. Kinko´s officials haven´t commented on why the company lost the contract, but Harad insisted it had nothing to do with old growth.

"That´s not true," Harad said, adding that the company lost a competitive bid with its competitor, International Paper, for Kinko´s business. Harad said the company wins and loses bids all the time, and the loss of Kinko´s is not expected to have any serious effect on the company.

And given current conditions, Boise Cascade´s decision to end old-growth harvesting is an easy one, said Jay O´Laughlin, a professor of forest resources at the University of Idaho.

During the 1990s, O´Laughlin said, timber sales in Idaho and the West declined by 80 percent, and most sales that are offered now -- whether they include old growth or not -- are routinely appealed by special-interest groups.

"The extent that old-growth timber has been put up for sale is the big question," O´Laughlin said. "I would be very surprised if the Forest Service is advertising any timber sales in old-growth."

Because of the minuscule amount of old-growth that Boise Cascade harvested, O´Laughlin said, the company´s decision isn´t very significant.

"My personal opinion is that I don´t think this will help or harm them to make a statement like that," he said.

Harad said Boise Cascade still believes the harvesting of old-growth timber can be beneficial to a forest´s health, but he admitted that it was very difficult to explain the importance of such harvesting to the public.

O´Laughlin said one of the things that causes confusion with the public is a lack of a standard definition of old-growth timber.

"Technically, what is old growth?" O´Laughlin asked. "The last time the Forest Service tried to determine that, it came up with 137 different definitions."

Some use age as the guiding factor; others use a tree´s diameter; still others identify a particular type of forest and label it old growth, O´Laughlin said.

To offer story ideas or comments, contact reporter Ken Dey at
kdey@idahostatesman.com or 377-6428.

Ken Dey

Source: The Idaho Statesman

Pat Rasmussen
Leavenworth Audubon Adopt-a-Forest
PO Box 154
Peshastin, WA 98847
Phone: 509-548-7640

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