SDS Lumber Company executives finalized the sale of a vast array of the lumber company’s assets last month, and the three-party consortium that purchased the company’s assets has since revealed a portion of the plans for the future.

SDS Timberland Sale

SDS Timberland Sale

It has been the talk of the community for the past couple of weeks that the former SDS logging/forestry, construction, and retail divisions were terminated following their acquisition by Carson-based Wilkins, Kaiser, and Olsen, (WKO) Inc.

WKO president Mike Engel confirmed in a phone interview that 36 positions — the entirety of those divisions — were terminated last month.

Engel explained that WKO focuses solely on manufacturing and has not historically utilized in-house logging or constructions crews, instead opting to work with local logging contractors and purchasing timber on the open market. In keeping the company’s mission, Engel said WKO will continue to focus on manufacturing.

“We are a wholesale commodities business,” Engel said. “If you spread yourself too thin, it’s hard to be focused on the one thing that makes you successful.”

Since then, Engel said he has worked to encourage his numerous partnerships in the timber industry to hire back those 36 former employees to local logging groups.

He said a number of former SDS employees have since been rehired with WKO’s sister companies, including at least two at the Carson site.

At the Bingen sawmill operations, WKO has decided to keep the SDS name and logo attached to the worksite, and in addition, has recently increased production. At the sawmill, WKO has added a swing shift, the first time since 2008. And Engel said the plywood operations have continued running 24 hours, five days a week , just as they had prior to the transaction.

WKO’s focus on efficiency — experimenting with different blades, processes, and other facets of the operation to get the most product out of timber — has prompted the company to begin making “small improvements” to the Bingen worksite, Engel said.

With the shuttering of SDS’ retail outlet, Izak Riley, owner of IV Riley Materials, Inc., told Columbia Gorge News that he plans to open a retail space in its place.

Riley has rehired the retail outlet’s manager on to the same position, and he is currently looking at two options for the store’s location.

Riley said the name of the game will be to buy local products at a discount for retail. He is planning to expand the operations to serve consumer needs not only for lumber supplies, but will also offer hardware and other framing and landscaping basics.

The store will serve as a subsidiary to IV Riley Materials, Inc., he said.

“We’re creating positions to try to ease this transition for not just the community… but for the employees as well,” Riley said. “We’re excited about taking this on.”

While WKO, Inc. took over the Bingen mill operations, two other parties are sharing over 96,000 acres of timberland that was owned by SDS Lumber.

The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit organization focused on conservation of critical land and waters, attained around 35,000 acres of the land through the sale.

Evan Smith, project manager for The Conservation Fund, said the organization has been working with local groups, including Columbia Land Trust, and will continue to work with community partners to develop forest management plans and policies.

Smith said the group’s overall goals for the land will be to secure public recreational access, oversee sustainable timber harvesting, and preserve the natural, climate and community values of the land.

Included in the land acquired by The Conservation Fund are some “really great” oak habitats and douglas fir forests, Smith said. Also included in the sale are river frontage and a source of drinking water for the City of The Dalles.

The land the organization acquired is a critical portion of forest habitat on the west coast, Smith said.

“Because of where it’s situated, you have this really pronounced ecological transition between dry plateau and the cascades,” Smith said. Because of the variety in temperatures, humidity, wind speed and direction, Smith explained that such zones are particularly sensitive to factors related to climate change.

By managing the land with an eye for conservation, it “really helps make for a much more healthy landscape. (It’s) able to withstand change better,” Smith said.

Both The Conservation Fund and Twin Creeks Timber, which will work the remainder of the timberlands through manager and co-investor Green Diamond Resource Management Company, will honor a safe harbor agreement for habitats of the Northern Spotted Owl.

Both parties will manage the timberlands under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard environmental certification program and state forest practices laws and rules, a press release said.

Green Diamond will maintain a forestry office and staff in Bingen, public affairs manager Patti Case said.

“We will work with contract logging and other crews, delivering wood and ensuring a robust wood products economy in the region while protecting the environment through sound forest management,” Case said.