The Mysteries of Stimson….

by jhwygirl

Prequel: Matthew Koehler, of the Wild West Institute, presents a maddeningly insane picture of Lee Newspapers in a comment to my previous post on Stimson Lumber. As I read it I just wanted to jump and scream.

He and I take two different roads and come to an agreement on at least one thing – that something ain’t right – and the Missoulian and Lee Newspapers are clearing the path and dragging the buggy for Stimson. With knee boots on.

While both of us feel the Missoulian’s coverage is lacking, Matt Koehler is upset with the failure to discuss the cyclical nature of the timber industry, foreign competition and slumping markets – and instead paint a picture that not-so-silently points to environmentalists. Stimson is now blaming the lack of logs, and the Missoulian is obligingly regurgitating that corporate lie on the front pages of its newspaper.

I, on the other hand, thought the Missoulian was incompetent by failing to ask a few ‘who what why when where’ questions after interviewing Stimson. It illustrated a lacking of a better-that-basic knowledge of the subject. Either that, or it was intentional, I thought.

And with Matt’s emails, I’m beginning to think it was intentional. This is where I wanted to jump and scream:

Date: Tue, 8 May 2007 11:37:38 -0600
From: “John Vanstrydonck”
To: “Matthew Koehler”

Fact is, the owners say that they are closing the plant for a lack of supply of raw materials. The other economic factors may have weighed on their decision. The difficulty getting raw materials at competitive prices would tend to make it particularly difficult for a manufacturer when a competitive market puts pressure on margins.

The owners cite lack of supply of raw materials was the reason they decided to close the mill. I believe that we quoted them accurately. It may not fit your world view, but it is the reason they stated and it seems reasonable.

“Seems reasonable.”

Last week, the Missoulian did a three-day series on the reasons behind the recent lay-offs at Stimson Lumber (1, 2, 3), which repeated more than once that the problem was the lack of logs. I almost wonder who wrote it, given the above email above is from Vanstrydonck, Missoulian Publisher.

One of the things that were driving me nuts was the repeated ascertainment by Stimson that they didn’t have any logs. There wasn’t any timber. Backus (Vanstrydonck?) does do a little ditty about the forest service timber sales, and how they’ve been outbid – he even subtly points that the disparity by the winning bid and Stimson’s was pretty wide.

But is the USFS the only source of timber? I mean, I stand at that mill and I am surrounded by forested land. There’s 100’s times more of land like that all around. How can Stimson say it doesn’t have any logs? Who owns all that timbered land?

Federal, State, Private and Stimson. But the stories don’t even mention any of those other sources for timber. And it doesn’t even bother to point out that Stimson owns forested land – but he does say, in explaining Stimsons options once the 1 billion board feet promised by Champion dried up: “Stimson had to look for timber on the open market.”

A search of the property information system over on the State website (you can search by owner and county) comes up with a whole bunch of Stimson owned land. Lewis & Clark County, Powell, Missoula, Mineral, Granite…did I miss any? Seems like a whole bunch of land – all in forest area.

And what about the State and Private as sources? Is Stimson sitting around waiting for someone to come knocking on their door? What do they do to pull private sales? What about the State? There’s a forestry office just down the road. Are they even trying?

The Missoulian’s series resigns itself too willingly to the closure of the mill – loosing the journalist’s mission of informing the public to the lure of a spoon-fed corporate message that “boo hoo, there ain’t no logs” is the problem. Why bother with the details, right?

They don’t dare delve. Don’t want to perhaps find out that closing the mill might be motivated by other factors – by a corporate need to send a message at the cost of jobs, and by a desire to ensure that the big guys maintain their fat checks.Don’t get me started on the painting of a utopic picture of opportunity out of a heavy equipment job on a EPA clean-up site. How many EPA sites do we have to have to sustain Stimson’s inevitable closing to maintain that ‘opportunity’?


  1. Anonymous

    Another reason Stimson may have closed is that they sold their patented process for making plywood to a company in Roseburg, Oregon. It’s a lot easier to make money without all those pesky employees and buildings. Now they can just collect a royalty check. Of course, for public consumption, it’s probably easiest to blame everything on environmentalists.

  2. jhwygirl

    Thanks Anonymous – I didn’t know that, and it certainly reinforces the fact that Stimson doesn’t give a damned about its employees – its all about the $$$$ and protecting their interests elsewhere.

    The Bonner mill is a sacrificial lamb.

  3. bigmodag

    Mushroom Managemenment. Not only are they trying to keep their remainining worked thinking that things will get better,keep those production #’s up, they will keep the place running(stud mill)- BS! The Plywood mill got off easy,we in the stud mill are facing pure hell. The Good logs are being sold on the open market. The reject logs are the ones we are running and it’s breaking all our backs

  4. Bigmodag

    Hey”j” The Corporate People are on this Stimson thing. They call it an”Indefinite” shutdown, but they are also going to offer a severance Package? That means we are all terminated.If the mill was to re-open in a Year or so, it would be non-Union,probably offer wages the same as Wal-Mart.There’s plenty of Logs out there,Stimson wont bid on them, meanwhile, Smurfit/Stone is buying perfectly good saw logs, to make paper. It’s best a company like Stimson goes back to Oregon, then they don’t have to fly around in their corporate Jet to make life in Montana and Idaho, pure Hell. I just don’t realize the fact, that Cooney doesn’t know about all the buried treasures out there. Maybe he has some insider information concerning a superfund grant that includes the Bonner mill site? The Milltown Dam is just the Tip of the Iceberg-Peace bigmodag

  5. workerbee

    Interesting comments on a company that is over 100 years old. Let’s put this in IDIOT terms, any company in their right mind can’t buy a log for a high price mbf and create a 2×4 that can only sell at a 10-15 year low, that’s a huge loss to any company, and you can’t continue to support a business that is loosing money at that rate.

  1. 1 Stimson workers question whether the company did enough to save their jobs « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] anonymous comment in one of my previous posts on Stimson Lumber Mill suggested, back on June 6th, that Stimson sold out its Duratemp because it was “a lot easier […]

  2. 2 Bits and pieces « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] excellent background stories done by 4&20’s very own jhwygirl. In chronilogical order, here’s the first one, here’s a follow up and here’s another, but then she just posted with […]

  3. 3 Stimson Lumber Mill Closing « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Other 4&20 posts on Stimson: Why Stimson Lumber Mill Matters The Mysteries of Stimson Stimson Needs a Bigger Yard? On Regurgitating Stimson Lies, False Economic Development and […]

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