Rayonier closes lands due to fire risks

Despite COVID-19, wildfires jobs have not been lost

Timberland real estate company Rayonier has closed all access to its forestland properties in three West Coast states, including in Kitsap County, due to fire danger.

In a news release, Rayonier noted that it includes lands owned by Pope Resources, Olympic Property Group and lands managed by Olympic Resource Management. The closures will remain in effect until either significant rainfall or fire hazard conditions improve.

Rayonier owns nearly 650,000 acres across three states, with about 16,500 acres in Kitsap County.

“This includes lands owned by Kitsap County and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe that Rayonier has timber rights on,” said Alejandro Barbero, director of Strategic Development and Communications for Rayonier. “We greatly appreciate the cooperation with Kitsap County and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe on working cooperatively with us for the safety of our community.”

Rayonier acquired Pope Resources for over $550 million on May 8, though the acquisition was announced in January. Pope Resources had been operating in Kitsap County for nearly 170 years and was one of the county’s top employers for decades.

“Closing the transaction and integrating the two companies in the midst of the pandemic and its associated travel restrictions are a testament to the dedication and the quality of the people that work for Rayonier and Pope Resources,” Barbero said.

The timberlands will be closed to the public, contractors, employees and customers.

“Their safety is paramount, and we want to make sure everyone stays safe through these hazards. Our employees will continue to work from home until fire hazard conditions improve,” Barbero said. “We are waiting for a significant rainfall event, and/or for the fire hazard conditions to improve before we revisit the decision to open access to our properties. We monitor these conditions on a daily basis and the timeframes may be different across our ownerships.”

Like many businesses around the country, Rayonier is recovering from the impacts of the coronavirus. According to Barbero, Rayonier closed all of its offices in mid-March and have only recently had small groups of employees returning to the office. Otherwise, the company intends to keep its offices closed until January of 2021.

Despite the coronavirus and fires, Rayonier has not had to furlough or fire any employees.

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