Issue Position: Forest Products
Small timber mills provide the backbone for rural, timber-dependent communities across Montana. The U.S. Small Business Administration Timber Set-Aside Program was established more than thirty years ago to insure that a fair proportion of the total sales of Government property, like timber from national forests, be made available to small businesses, with 500 or fewer employees.
During the past 18 months, F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company of Columbia Falls, Owens and Hurst Lumber Company, Inc. of Eureka, Pyramid Lumber Co. of Seeley Lake and other small and independently owned mills across Montana have worked with me to aggressively identify ways to fine-tune the existing SBA timber set aside program for Montana small mills.
For many of these owners and operators of Montana small mills, I'm told that the SBA timber set-aside program is critical to protecting Montana's remaining small mills from closure due to a tight log supply from National Forest and low commodity prices.
Since September, I've teamed up with top Region One staff of the U.S Forest Service timber program to ensure that our Montana small businesses maintain access to good timber projects as part of the set-aside program. In a few short months we have had dozens of meetings with owners and managers of Montana's small and independent mills, discussions with thoughtful friends in the conservation community, USFS staff, and representatives of the U.S. and Montana Small Business Administration.
These meetings have resulted in some good opportunities for Montana's small timber industry. In October our joint efforts resulted in nearly 40 million board feet of timber being set-aside for small business on the Kootenai National Forest in northwest Montana. Last week the Crazy Horse Salvage Project on the Flathead National Forest was purchased by Montana's Pyramid Lumber Company as another SBA set-aside sale.
Montana's small, independent and family-owned mills provide jobs and the economic backbone of Montana's rural timber-dependent communities. I'll continue to work hard with Montana's small timber industry to improve the SBA timber set-aside program.