Hellbender Journal Autumn 2002
|A Weyerhauser "working forest".
Takes Over Willamette
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
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.
P.O. Box 9777
Federal Way, WA 98063-9777
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