BLM Contract Extension Passes U.S. Senate

Washington, D.C.
– The U.S. Senate today passed the Tax Extenders Act of 2009, which incorporated the Forest Harvest Opportunity Act by amendment.  Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden introduced the Forest Harvest Opportunity Act in November 2009 to help timber companies remain competitive and sustain economic growth.

The Forest Harvest Opportunity Act will extend already-existing contracts between timber companies and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) so the companies can harvest when prices rebound, rather than force them to harvest at a loss.

“I’m proud that we passed this extension today to help Oregon’s forest industry remain competitive,” Merkley said.  “We’re still entrenched in a tough economic climate and this common-sense move will provide more stability to timber-dependent Oregon companies and communities until timber prices recover.”

“Thanks to this bill, rural communities won’t have to sell timber at bargain basement prices just to meet some inflexible federal deadline,” Wyden said.  “This gives timber companies, which are a major force to create jobs in Oregon, a chance to live to fight another day.”

Oregon’s forestry industry currently employs thousands of Oregonians and contributes hundreds of millions to the Oregon economy.  The collapse of the housing market has resulted in record-low timber prices and caused significant harm to the timber industry and Oregon’s rural communities. Companies that bid for and won contracts to harvest timber on BLM lands when timber prices were high are now faced with a dilemma: harvesting at current prices would cost more than the timber can be sold for.  These lower prices result in losses for timber companies and lead to layoffs.

Companies that have contracts with the Forest Service have the ability to apply for and receive extension on those contracts, but the BLM does not have a similar option.   The Forest Harvest Opportunity Act offers the same opportunity to companies that have contracts with the BLM, allowing companies that already signed contracts to apply for an extension of up to three additional years so they can harvest when prices rebound.

The Forest Harvest Opportunity Act is also cosponsored by Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana.