Allegheny Defense Project ...working for the protection of the natural heritage of the Alleghenies...

Hellbender Journal Autumn 2002

A Weyerhauser "working forest".

What's in a Name?

Weyerhauser Takes Over Willamette

By Ryan Talbott

Weyerhauser, one of the world's largest forest landowners, recently merged with Willamette Industries. The merger was long in the making due to Willamette stockholders' unwillingness to accept Weyerhauser's bidding price. But after months of negotiations, the two corporations settled on a $55.50/share buyout. Within a year the merger is expected to be complete, with Weyerhauser assuming all of Willamette’s former holdings. So what does this mean for the Allegheny region?

Weyerhauser does already have one sawmill in Titusville, a few miles west of the Allegheny. Now they will assume the Willamette chipmill in Lantz Corners and a pulp mill in Johnsonburg, both of which have been assaulting citizens with air and noise pollution for years now.

Those familiar with the struggle to protect the Pacific Northwest and Southern Appalachia know all too well what it means to have Weyerhauser as your neighbor. For years Weyerhauser has been clearcutting their lands and replanting, often with marginal success, monocultures of commercially desirable species. At present, Weyerhauser owns over 30 million acres of forestland in the United States and Canada alone. They have operations in at least fifteen other countries around the globe and pride themselves with bringing these "developing" countries into the modern world.

Following the takeover of Willamette, Weyerhauser CEO, Steve Rogel, bluntly stated: "We're adapting to the changing landscape of our industry - an industry that is becoming more global, more focused and more consolidated. Combining two outstanding companies into one to become the global leader in the forest products industry will speed us to our goal of being the best."

Consolidation is the name of the game and Weyerhauser is a major player. Prior to the Willamette acquisition, Weyerhauser acquired MacMillan Bloedel, British Colombia's largest timber company. Macmillan Bloedel is responsible for some of the largest clearcuts in British Colombia and also for bringing a fiberboard plant to Clarion, PA, which is now owned by Temple-Inland.

Clearcuts and Plantations

Weyerhauser brags that they are leading the way in tree-growing technology. Of course, what this really means is that they are leading the way in clearcutting their lands and replacing them with even-aged monocultures of commercially desirable tree species. Diverse, native forests are clearcut and replanted with loblolly or slash pine. What is more troubling is that Weyerhauser manages their land on very short rotations, sometimes only thirty-five to forty years. This flawed concept of 'the working forest' completely ignores all ecological principles of sustainability.

Decreased rotations rapidly deplete soil nutrients, causing failed regeneration attempts, even after costly measures such as fertilization to counter nutrient loss. Erosion and sedimentation is increased from short rotations leading to deadly landslides and siltation of streams and rivers, which kills aquatic life, upsetting the balance of the food chain. Species dependant on intact tracts of mature forest land are displaced when these forests are cut down and replaced by plantations of one or two species. Unfortunately, if regeneration attempts fail, Weyerhauser does not consider it a liability. For them it is just another business opportunity.

For Sale: Degraded Forestland for Sprawl Development

Not being satisfied with chewing up our forests, Weyerhaeuser is becoming quite the real-estate agent. It's a logical progression for them. If the forests they cut down fail to regenerate, they can just sell the land for more than it is worth. Weyerhauser Real Estate Development Company (WREDCo) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser Company. Their web site boasts of selling lands in western Washington and Oregon that were previously tree farms because they are "committed to bringing rural lands to the marketplace so others will benefit from our forestry stewardship efforts." Another, more accurate way of looking at it is not only is Weyerhaeuser rapidly clearcutting thousands of acres of forestlands, but they are also causing permanent deforestation from urban sprawl development.

One look at the photos that accompany their web page and you can see why Weyerhauser is selling their land - up to 3,000 acres a year! Roads and clearcuts are the common feature to attract prospective buyers. It makes you wonder, if this is the view of their land they openly advertise, what must the rest of their land look like?

Impacts at Home

It is hard to say what the long-term impacts will be from this consolidation for our area. Because neither Weyerhaeuser nor Willamette own vast tracks of forestland in the Allegheny region as they do in the West and South, the picture is not quite as clear for our forest lands. The outlook for jobs, however is more clear. Within months of the takeover, the former Willamette paper mill in Johnsonburg, PA laid off 85 employees.

Weyerhaeuser is a powerful entity with virtually unlimited resources. Weyerhauser's takeover is part of a global trend of consolidation. Weyerhaeuser will now have a sawmill, a chipmill and a pulpmill in this region. This monopolistic structure is exactly what anti-trust laws are supposed to prevent.

If we are to prevent the type of forestry practices Weyerhaeuser employs elsewhere from occurring here, we must send them a clear, concise message: Clearcutting thousands of acres of forestland and replacing them with plantations of one or two species, whether it is pine or black cherry, is not an acceptable business practice. It is not sustainable forestry. The only benefactors from that style of management are the executives in their lush office suites in Federal Way, Washington.

If we do not send this message, Weyerhaeuser will undoubtedly hurt this area, both ecologically and economically. Weyerhaeuser is assuming $1.7 billion dollars of Willamette's debt. Nearly 100 workers are already unemployed. Furthermore, as history has shown, when mergers such as this occur, forestlands are often liquidated to pay off the debt incurred from the merger. When Maxxam took over Pacific Lumber thousands of acres of ancient Redwood forests fell to make up for the debt.

Contact Weyerhaeuser and tell them to stop converting their forest lands to plantations and vacation homes and to protect American jobs by decreasing exports and employing more ecologically friendly methods of management for private lands.

Weyerhaeuser Company

P.O. Box 9777

Federal Way, WA 98063-9777

(253) 924-2345

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