Reflecting slow but mostly steady improvements in Montana’s timber industry, lumber production and worker wages increased in the first six months of 2014, according to a new study. But despite the optimistic numbers, logging managers in this corner of the state say they continue struggling with available inventory, due to ongoing litigation tying up forest lands and challenges within the U.S. Forest Service.
“In general the first six months have been pretty good. The market and prices on the products are up. But the problem is securing the raw resources and trying to get sufficient wood,” said Chuck Roady, vice president and general manager of F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. near Columbia Falls. “We’re surrounded by trees but we just can’t get the Forest Service to manage their land.”
The first half of 2014 was the strongest six-month period that the state’s timber industry has experienced since 2009, according to Todd Morgan, director of forestry industry research at the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Morgan released an overview of the industry last week, proclaiming a positive message for Montana’s sawmills.
Statewide, wages paid to production workers spiked 20 percent from January through June compared to a year ago. The number of production workers was up 3 percent. Lumber production increased 4 percent. The continued increases are good to see, Morgan said, and the trend should continue with gradual improvement from 2009, which saw the industry plummet to its lowest point in more than 50 years.
“Montana wood products results for 2009 and 2010 were the lowest since the end of World War II, and their recovery has been slow but fairly steady,” Morgan stated. “U.S. homebuilding has increased more slowly than predicted for years and is still not back to its long-term average, which has contributed to slow growth.”
From the Flathead Beacon: http://flatheadbeacon.com/2014/08/05/timber-industry-improves-mills-see-setbacks-availability/