A longtime logger struggles with slipping land values

Werner Mayr couldn't look more like an old-time logger if he had come from Central Casting: He sports gold-rimmed glasses, a plaid flannel shirt, jeans, suspenders (the button-on kind), and boots.

But it doesn't look as though his story is going to have the kind of happy ending Hollywood likes.

He motions a visitor to an ancient oak rocker (''We have to glue it every now and then, but don't worry, it'll hold you'') and begins the story he has no doubt told before.

His company, Mayr Bros. Logging Company Inc., in the family for over half a century, has had to seek protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy law. It is operating under an interim business plan, with a final plan due at the end of the month. Only one of Mayr's two sawmills is operating. ''And we'll lose the land,'' his 45,000-acre timber farm, he says stoically. ''To make money in this business, you've got to own your own land.''

His immediate problem is not unlike that of many farmers - the value of his land has declined in relation to the amount of debt against which it is pledged as collateral. Just a few years ago, the timberland was valued at $100 million. It was appraised at $67 million in 1983 - and has fallen to just $30 million this year.

''The value of timber has just collapsed.'' He doesn't assign blame along political lines, but it's clear that he sees his predicament as part of the downside of capping inflation over the past few years. He's also feeling the pressure of Canadian timber, priced in weak Canadian dollars, coming in, notably from British Columbia. ''Twenty or 25 years ago British Columbia didn't produce timber.''

His rate on his long-term loan from the Federal Land Bank - which is adjustable, not unlike a variable-rate mortgage on a house - has also gone up from 5 percent to 12.5 percent in the last few years.

He doesn't blame his creditors - the Federal Land Bank and Rainier Bancorporation, in Seattle - for being anxious But he wishes they would be patient.

''We're not kicking; we'll take our beating; but it's going to hurt the country.''

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