Much of the machinery needed replacing, most of the workers needed training and the nearby forest was spattered with more beetle-killed timber than ever before, but the once-dormant Wyoming sawmill at the end of Saratoga’s main street has roared back to life.
And the crew is hitting production quotas “hand over fist,” its new manager said.
Oregon native Gary Ervin started a company, Saratoga Forest Management, to take over operations at the mill, a mainstay in the Platte River Valley’s industrial fabric fallen silent nearly 10 years before.
“It’s coming along good,” Ervin said recently as he walked through the sawmill’s planer building, where rough-cut timber is shaved down to industry standard two-by-fours. “We’re getting the bugs worked out.”
Ervin employs 80 people total at his mill and planer facilities, plus at least 30 loggers to haul timber from the nearby Medicine Bow National Forest. There, the U.S. Forest Service says, a decade-long drought rendered mature lodgepole pine perfect bait for a wood-boring bug called the mountain pine beetle. The beetles have killed nearly all of southern Wyoming’s and northern Colorado’s mature lodgepole pine trees, according to the USFS.