Jun 132012

By Linda Kor —

A deadline for bidders to contest the award of contract by the U.S. Forest Service to Pioneer Forest Products for the thinning of 300,000 acres of Ponderosa Pine has passed uncontested. The three other bidders for the project had until June 7 to voice opposition to the selection.

With the deadline passed, Pioneer is now the official recipient of the largest stewardship contract in the Forest Service’s history and begins a 20-year plan to restore 2.4 million acres of ponderosa pine forest in northern Arizona. The initiative aimed at the restoration of forest ecosystems on portions of the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests also means good news for Winslow and the surrounding area. Pioneer officials have indicated that they will be constructing a facility in Winslow that is expected to employ 600 people, with another 400 employed for logging and trucking. The company plans to convert small diameter timber thinnings into non-commodity, high value lumber, panels, furniture, cabinetry, specialty components and energy producing products at the facility. Where that will be located has yet to be verified by the company or city officials, as there were several locations in the city under consideration.

The project will consist of the thinning of approximately 30,000 acres a year for 10 years with the possibility of extending the contract for 10 years longer. The first 5,000 acres will be logged this year and stored at the chosen site until the manufacturing facility is built.

Although there was no formal opposition to the contract one company, Arizona Forest Restoration Products (AZFRP), issued a lengthy press release in which President Pascal Berlioux stated he was “puzzled” at the selection by the Forest Service. “The award of the 4FRI contract to Pioneer Associates on May 18, 2012, demonstrates beyond any doubt that despite having been successful at convincing an unprecedented spectrum of stakeholders… we were not successful at convincing the Regional U.S. Forest Service leadership of the value of the AZFRP proposal.”

The company, which intended to construct an oriented strand board manufacturing facility in Winslow had it received the contract, did not contest the award of contract, with Berlioux stating that they believed to do so would be an exercise in futility. As a result of that decision, AZFRP was dissolved as a company. “The reason for AZFRP to exist was to develop, advocate, bid on, win, and ultimately implement the 4FRI restoration contract. Without such a contract, AZFRP has no reason to exist,” noted the press release.

Pioneer officials plan to announce the location of their site in the near future and hope to be in full production by the end of 2013.