Timber mill dreams of museum

  It's a public-relations dream: Save an outdated, inefficient timber mill from the scrap heap by making it a working museum that cuts logs for show.

But there's a catch: Hull-Oakes Lumber Co., owner of the 90-year-old steam-powered mill near Monroe, Ore., wants the federal government to guarantee two-thirds of its timber supply - 12 million board-feet a year off public lands - at a fixed price outside the bidding process.

Nice try, say some critics who call the museum a front for obtaining subsidized timber. They argue as well that the mill, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has operated without a wastewater permit since 1989. "Their closet is full of skeletons," says Doug Heiken of the Oregon Natural Resources Council.

Hull-Oakes says the permit issue was an oversight, and has since gotten the permit.

But company spokesman Wayne Giesy doesn't deny either a profit motive or a desire to tell the public about the history of logging. The timber subsidy, he says, would offset hundreds of thousands of dollars the company will spend on an interpretive center, guides and walkways.

There's still a major hurdle, however. Hull-Oakes needs congressional approval to exempt the company from the timber bidding process.

*Peter Chilson, Sarah Dry

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