The U.S. Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports has waged decades of trade war against Canada, but its membership has always been a closely held secret.
Until now, that is.
Yesterday, the coalition's Washington-based law firm inadvertently e-mailed a report of its recent public relations activities to journalists. And the intended recipients of the message are many of the key members of the coalition, including lumber companies, land brokers, as well as mergers-and-acquisition experts.
"Everyone on that list is a member," acknowledged Harry Clark, a lawyer at Dewey Ballantine in Washington. "But that's not the membership list. It's just part of the membership."
The list includes several large, mostly public, companies, long suspected to be active in the coalition. These include International Paper Co. of Stamford, Conn., Sierra Pacific Industries of Redding, Calif., Temple-Inland Inc. of Austin, Tex., Potlatch Corp. of Spokane, Ore., and Plum Creek Timber Co. Inc. of Seattle, Wash.
Also on list are officials at a clutch of large, private lumber companies from across the United States, including Seneca Sawmill Co. of Eugene, Ore., Stimson Lumber Co. of Portland, Ore., New South Cos. Inc. of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Hampton Affiliates of Portland, Ore., Moose River Lumber Co. of Moose River, Me., Riley Creek of Laclede, Idaho, Shukualak Lumber of Shukualak, Miss., Gulf Lumber Co. of Mobile, Ala., Swanson Group Inc. of Glendale, Ore., and Tolleson Lumber of Perry, Ga.
Many Canadians have long wondered how a relatively obscure industry group has for decades successfully convinced the U.S. government and Congress of the merits of its grievances against its Canadian rivals.
But the partial membership list shows that the coalition's geographic reach spans all corners of the country. That has enabled the coalition to repeatedly mount an effective national lobbying drive.
The list also demonstrates that its membership extends beyond lumber mills. The e-mail recipients include Sullivan Forestry Consultants Inc., a Georgia-based timberland realtor, and Evercore Partners Inc., a mergers and acquisitions company.
The coalition has steadfastly refused to disclose its members. For example, it filed the most recent lumber trade case in 2002 in the name of dozens of regional lumber industry associations and labour unions, not individual companies.
But the coalition's key decision makers and financial backers have been its individual corporate members, according to a Canadian lumber industry official who declined to be named.
The e-mail also summarizes the coalition's media relations efforts.
Also yesterday, the Canadian government confirmed that it will appeal a recent North American free-trade agreement ruling that slashed U.S. duties on Canadian lumber. Ottawa argues that the duties should be removed entirely and that more than $5-billion in duties be returned to Canadian lumber producers.