The U.S. Forest Service is allowing loggers more time to meet their contracts in national forests due to the novel coronavirus, according to a notice published in the federal register Wednesday.
The move is meant to lend a helping hand to the timber industry as operations shut down across the country, the notice says.
The economic instability that’s emerged in the wake of COVID-19 could lead to,"bankruptcies, loss of infrastructure and loss of jobs."
It extends contracts in the Lower 48 states awarded before April 1 by up to two years, so rights to cut trees don’t run out. Normally, the average timber contract length is about 2 to 3 years total, the document says.
According to the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, timber harvests and jobs in Montana have plummeted since their peak in the late 1980s.
But Region 1 of the Forest Service, which includes Montana and parts of four other states, has ambitions to increase the volume of timber it cuts by more than 50 percent by 2022, compared to 2017 levels.