Tester, Bullock seek assurances on Plum Creek

by Great Falls Tribune

Two top Montana officials sent letters this week to Weyerhaeuser Corp. management, asking them to maintain jobs in the Treasure State and keep the public access that Plum Creek Timber has established.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., sent a letter dated Wednesday, which was followed Thursday by a missive from Gov. Steve Bullock.

“As this proposed merger progresses, I urge all parties to retain the local workforce and the same level of access to our outdoors,” Tester wrote in his letter to Rick Holley, chief executive officer of Plum Creek and Doyle R. Simons, president and CEO of Weyerhaeuser.

Bullock sent his letter Thursday to Simons, also asking him to keep jobs in Montana and continue the public access that Plum Creek Timber has established, officials said.

On Nov. 9, it was announced that Weyerhaeuser would be buying Plum Creek for $8.44 billion to form what is expected to be one of the world’s biggest timberland and forest products companies. Shareholders must approve the merger. It is expected to close in 2016.

The company will keep the Weyerhaeuser name and reportedly have more than 13 million acres of timberland. It will be worth $23 billion based on current share prices.

According to its website, Plum Creek’s main Montana office is in Columbia Falls and it has 765 employees who work in forestry, manufacturing, real estate and land sales. It has 888,000 acres and much of the land is open to the public for free recreational use.

“I am writing to ask for your assurance that operations in Montana will not be substantially impacted by this merger and that the access that Montanans have enjoyed for years will not be gated off,” Bullock stated in his letter.

Tester urged the company to keep the Plum Creek facilities and its employees.

“The men and women working for them are the company’s greatest resource and I trust they will be an invaluable asset well into the future,” he wrote.

Weyerhaeuser officials were not immediately available for comment.

Bullock noted the work that he and his administration has recently done to promote active forest management, and support the good-paying jobs of the timber industry.

He highlighted the historic open access policy that Plum Creek had established for their land, and how these efforts had worked to build a productive working relationship with Montanans, the state and neighbors.

“I am very concerned that Weyerhaeuser may not fully appreciate Montana’s culture around this issue. It is my understanding that the company charges a fee for access to its lands in Oregon and Washington,” Bullock said. “That approach will not be well-received in Montana.”

Bullock asked the CEO to take quick action to alleviate concerns about the company’s intentions regarding the public access policies established by Plum Creek.

Tester said he was looking forward to learning about how the merger will affect workers and land management decisions in Montana.