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Jeld-Wen bid wins tree farm

September 24, 2004 by DYLAN DARLING

Interest came in from all over, but ownership of the 90,000-acre Longbell tree farm northeast of Chiloquin will be local.

Jeld-Wen Inc. of Klamath Falls was the high bidder in a sealed-bid auction of the block of industrial timberland owned by Timber Resource Services, which was formerly called U.S. Timberlands.

"It's a great timber property," said Jason de Vries, Jeld-Wen real estate manager.

He would not elaborate on how much the company bid for the property that is roughly half the size of Crater Lake National Park.

"It's just not something we release," he said.

Realty/Marketing Northwest, a Portland-based real estate marketing and brokerage company, announced that the 144-square mile tree farm was for sale in July. Bids, with a minimum ante of $20 million, were due Sept. 15.

John Rosenthal, president of the realty company, said there were multiple bids well over the minimum, with Jeld-Wen coming out the winner. It will still be several weeks before the company takes over ownership of the land.

"It should close by the end of October," Rosenthal said.

The state of Oregon and the Nature Conservancy were interested in the property, but weren't able to assemble bids. Officials at several large timber companies contacted by the Herald and News said they weren't bidding on the property the day bids were due.

The Klamath Tribes, who once had the land as part of their treaty of 1864, said they put in a bid.

"Obviously, we are disappointed that we weren't successful," said tribal Chairman Allen Foreman.

He said the Tribes hope to work with the new owners of the land to make sure their cultural sites and treaty rights are respected.

The acreage has long been held by timber companies. The Longbell Lumber Co. used railroads to log it in the 1920s, and Weyerhaeuser Co. bought it in 1942. Weyerhaeuser sold the land to U.S. Timberlands in 1996 as the timber giant moved out of the area.

The Tribes have held discussion with federal officials about the possibility of gaining 690,000 acres of national forest land as a restored Indian reservation. With the talks apparently on hold as the presidential election gets close, the purchase of the Longbell tree farm would have given the Tribes a large piece of land.

"It would have been a very important starting point," Foreman said.

Rosenthal said there were 500 requests for sale catalogs, and bid packages which gave expanded information about the property were sent to 61 companies throughout the United States and Canada. He also said 20 interested parties inspected the property.

The state of Oregon was also interested in the land, but Forestry Department officials didn't have time to get the legislative or budgetary support to put in a bid.

Although he said he was disappointed the state couldn't get in a bid, Oregon Department of Forestry District Forester Bill Hunt said he was happy Jeld-Wen was the apparent high bidder.

He said the company has a good timber management record, and has a good relationship with the department.

"We are glad that it is a local entity that appears to be in forest management for the long run," Hunt said.

Jeld-Wen began in 1960 as a small Oregon millwork plant and has grown into a company with more than 150 division and 20,000 employees in 20 countries, according to a press release from the company.

The land will be managed by the Jeld-Wen's timber and ranch division, de Vries said.

Most of Jeld Wen's timber holdings are in Klamath County, said Craig Ditman, manager of the timber and ranch division. He would not go into details about how much timberland the company owns.

"We are not a big timberland owner," he said.

Most of the land has ponderosa pine stands, which produce lumber that the company uses in the production of its windows and doors.

"We try to use most of our wood inside the company," Ditman said.

He said the Longbell tree farm would be managed in the way that the company manages its other timberland - "gently."

"We don't abuse our ground," Ditman said.

He said the land is in good shape and U.S. Timberland left it well-stocked with stands of trees and took care of the creeks that run through them.

Still, it will be several years before some of the stands have timber ready to harvest.

"Mostly, what that ground needs is to let those trees grow," Ditman said.

Klamath County Commissioner Steve West said Jeld-Wen has done a good job managing the timberland it already owns in the county. He said is glad the company got the high bid because he wanted to see the land stay in timber use.

"My worst fear was that some, for lack of better words, 'out-of-town' developer would come in and split it up into 80-acre parcels," West said.


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