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UM News
June 18, 2013

MISSOULA – While still reeling from the effects of the housing collapse, the global financial crisis and record low wood products markets, the outlook for Wyoming’s timber industry should improve dramatically in the next year, according to University of Montana researchers.

Improved market conditions in 2012, combined with the re-opening of the Saratoga mill in southeast Wyoming, means that lumber production in the state could more than double in 2013, said Chelsea McIver, a researcher with UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research who headed up the study.

“This would be good not only for mill owners and workers, but would have a positive impact on the logging and trucking industries as well,” McIver said. “Our research indicates that approximately 14 jobs are created for every million board feet of timber delivered to Wyoming mills.”

BBER researchers recently have completed the third in a series of studies on Wyoming’s timber industry. Results, which span the past decade, show an industry hit hard by the Great Recession, but starting to rebound. The series of reports were developed through a cooperative effort between BBER and the USDA Forest Service, Interior West Research Station, and were co-written by McIver and Colin Sorenson, a research economist with BBER.

“The first decade of the 21st century was a real roller-coaster ride for the forest products industry across the West with record high lumber consumption leading up to 2005, followed by lows not seen since the Great Depression,” Sorenson said. “In 2005, 59 timber processors were operating in Wyoming, but by 2010 this number had been cut in half, with a considerable number of businesses in the log home industry closing up shop.”

In 2010, Wyoming sawmills produced 55 million board feet of lumber, compared to 168 million board feet in 2000. However, sawmills in the state used just over one-third of their production capacity in 2010, demonstrating that rebounds in wood products markets could quickly lead to significant increases in lumber production, Sorenson said.

“During the recession some mills stayed idle, waiting for the market to pick up, and others reduced their production by cutting back on the number of hours they ran each week.” McIver said. “With the recent rebound in housing starts and lumber demand, at least one idle mill has reopened and others are likely hiring more workers and adding more shifts to meet increased demand.”

Highlights and summary tables for this report can be found at




Billings media, Wyoming media


Contact: Todd Morgan, director, Forest Industry Research Program, UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research, 406-243-5113,; Chelsea McIver, research assistant, Forest Industry Research Program, UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research, 406-243-5113,