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Forester honored for efforts to ease federal timber supply
McGee's involvement serves as template for forest management

Barbara Coyner
For the Capital Press

COLVILLE, Wash. - When Lloyd McGee heard that the area Forester of the Year award was going to a person with 30 years of experience, he quipped, "Why do they always give the awards to the old guys?"

Then the Vaagen Brothers Lumber Co. forester realized the coveted Society of American Foresters award was his.

Singled out for the honor by the Inland Empire Chapter of SAF, McGee said his 30 years of forestry experience have given him plenty of insight. He has used that experience to help forge the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, one of the most successful natural resource collaboration groups in the country.

When McGee came on board as a company forester 16 years ago, the Colville National Forest was in gridlock, and local mills were looking primarily to private landowners for supply. McGee had spent 10 years with the Idaho Department of Lands before doing consulting work around the Idaho panhandle's forests. He had seen how local communities struggle when federal timber is unavailable to local mills, and he'd seen private forest owners sometimes overharvest their lands to make up the volume.

"When I came to Vaagen's, I got to work with private landowners again," said McGee, a University of Idaho graduate in forest resource management. "I could see they were often overcutting, sometimes to send a kid to college or gain some extra income. I thought, this can't go on, we'll run out."

When the Vaagen Brothers mill closed at Republic in 2001, McGee got the green light from mill owner Duane Vaagen to participate in collaboration efforts. For Vaagen, the goal was to loosen up federal timber supply and keep the company's remaining sawmill operating at Colville. Perseverance paid off as McGee broke bread with some of the area's most die-hard environmentalists, as well as with Forest Service personnel and other area interest groups. As the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition made progress on federal timber harvest, McGee was chosen to be at the helm.

"I have to credit Duane Vaagen for his innovation and willingness to work with other groups" McGee said. "We are lucky that the infrastructure is still in place around here. We all have specialty niches such as biomass power, cedar, small logs, large logs and paper production. When Vaagen gets a stewardship contract, everybody gets something from it. The idea is that we get the right log to the right mill, directly from the woods. We want to be efficient."