Underscoring that trend was last month's announcement by Mendocino
Redwood Co. of its plans to close the last lumber mill on the Mendocino
Coast by Aug. 1. The declining supply of local logs was one reason behind
the decision to shut down the Fort Bragg mill, company President Richard
Mendocino Redwood's owners continue to view the company's 210,000 acres
of county timberlands as a long-term investment, Higgenbottom said.
But even when young commercial forests now growing on the North Coast
mature and are available for harvesting in 25 to 30 years, there are
likely to be fewer mills left in operation, Standiford said. Those that
remain will be more efficient and provide fewer jobs.
In the meantime, the timber industry will likely face tougher
regulations, Standiford said. Government agencies are facing growing
public demands to treat even privately owned forests as integral parts of
local environments, requiring their owners to restore waterways and
``There is no doubt that we are moving away from viewing logging
operations individually to seeing them in context of landscapes and
watersheds,'' said Standiford.
Mendocino County's timber production decline may be the most dramatic,
but local and state statistics show that timber production statewide has
plummeted by two-thirds since 1989.
As in Mendocino, past overcutting of corporate timberlands, increased
regulatory restraints and surging imports of more cheaply produced logs
from around the world are blamed.
The sharp decline is also reflected in changing state and federal
logging policies on publicly owned lands. In 1989, government lands
provided nearly 44 percent of the available log supply in the state.
Today, only 10 percent of the current log supply comes from government
Art Harwood, whose Branscomb family operates Mendocino County's last
independently owned sawmill, predicted California consumers ultimately
will be the ones to pay for increased environmental protections.
``Locally, private timberland landowners are finding that the costs of
preparing and winning regulatory approval for timber harvesting in many
cases nearly equal prices the logs will bring in the marketplace,'' said
As a result, Harwood said he is buying and importing logs from
Washington and Canada to run through the Branscomb mill for less cost than
if he were to succeed in finding a larger supply of available local logs.
``Two-thirds of the logs we run through our mill are from those
areas,'' said Harwood.
Harwood said globally there's a glut of cheaper logs, not only from
Canada but from Siberia, New Zealand and the Tropics.
``The sad truth is we're protecting our own environment at the expense
of these other states and countries, where timber producers operate with
far fewer restrictions,'' said Harwood.
The new figures show just how quickly Mendocino County is shifting from
a natural resource-based economy to a more
service-based economy that relies on tourism, light industry and
government jobs, Bengston said.
``I suppose it's inevitable, but I'm sorry to see it happening,''
You can reach Staff Writer Mike Geniella at 462-6470 or