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Feds give sawmills a break

A number of sawmills under contract with the U.S. Forest Service -- but no longer in need of timber because of the housing slowdown -- caught a break last week when the federal government allowed them to cancel their contracts. But the deal struck with the Forest Service, according to an article in the Denver Post, will also help clear out some of the acres of dead and dying lodgepole pine trees. 

Devastation caused by the mountain pine beetle, also known as the bark beetle, has spread across more than 17.5 million acres of land in six states, according to the U.S. Forest Service.  Dead trees pose a safety hazard near utility lines, campgrounds, roads and trails. Loggers clearing these trees need a place to take them to be processed. And that’s where the new Forest Service plan comes in. 

Sawmills in such hard-hit states as Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado are already under economic pressure because of the building slump. The drop in demand for lumber did not nullify their long-term logging contracts and fees. But under the new arrangement, an unspecified number of sawmills in these states will begin processing beetle-killed pines scheduled for removal from an estimated 4 million acres in Wyoming and Colorado. 

The end products are suitable for use in pellet stoves and for other biomass purposes.