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Two Mills In Columbia Falls To Close This Year

Weyerhaeuser closed its lumber and plywood mills in Columbia Falls last week.
Eric Whitney
Two Mills In Columbia Falls To Close This Year

One of the world's largest private owners of timberlands is shutting down two mills in Columbia Falls later this year.

The Weyerhaeuser Company announced the closure of its lumber mill and plywood mill today.

Weyerhaeuser Resources Team Leader Tom Ray says the 230 employees at the mills were told this afternoon that 100 of them would lose their jobs.

The mills will close in August or early September.

"I mean they are extremely disappointed. They’ve done a great job working safely and being productive, but if you don’t have the resources, we just can’t continue to run those mills," says Ray.

Ray says two new shifts are being created at the Weyerhaeuser mills in Kalispell to employ some of the Columbia Falls workers.

In a press release announcing the company’s plan, Weyerhaeuser says the mill closures follow a decision earlier this year to move corporate positions to the company’s Seattle headquarters.

As a result, the company also plans to close its main office in Columbia Falls at the end of the year.

Ray says the closures are a result of Montana’s chronic log shortage.

“Well, you think about Montana here, we’ve seen a lot of litigation that has tied up the Forest Service over the last couple of decades. We certainly applaud the governor and the Montana federal delegation, they’ve been great partners in trying to solve the log issue. Unfortunately, they can’t do it alone. We appreciate the challenges they’ve had in moving this thing forward in DC, it just has not changed what we’ve seen with logs coming markoff with the Forest Service unfortunately.”

Last November, Weyerhaeuser announced it would merge with the previous mill owner Plum Creek.

That $8 billion deal was approved by company shareholders this February.

Weyerhaeuser will continue to operate three mills in Montana - a lumber mill and plywood mill in Kalispell, and a fiberboard mill in Columbia Falls.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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