For years Pyramid Mountain Lumber Inc. thought the availability of logs was going to be their limiting factor for profitability and capital improvements. This winter they are up six million board feet in their log yard compared to a year ago. The future is looking bright for Pyramid but they are facing a challenge they were not expecting: lack of qualified employees.

In 2015 lumber markets went south. All Montana sawmills were operating on overpriced timber and losing money like never before. “We were the first ones to really jump out and say this is a real train wreck and the train is already off the track. We need to stop and we need to get the train back on the track,” said Pyramid’s Chief Operating Officer Loren Rose.

Pyramid laid off workers, cutting back to a barebones operation. They cut log prices and asked loggers to take their logs to other mills so the loggers could survive.

In June of 2016, Weyerhaeuser made the announcement that they were going to close their sawmill and plywood plant in Columbia Falls, Mont. The sawmill was a pine board mill and the plywood plant took peeler-sized logs. “When they made that announcement, we knew our world was going to change pretty dramatically,” said Rose. “All of the sudden our only competition for pine logs was going out of business. We are the only mill left in the state that will produce ponderosa pine on any kind of volume.”

Three primary loggers in central Montana were taking their ponderosa pine logs to Weyerhaeuser. After the mill closure, those logs were available. Also the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes has an active forestry program and they needed a place to take their pine after the Columbia Falls mill closure.

From the Seeley Swan Pathfinder: