Tester: Tricon Timber reaches final agreement with Forest Service

Senator tours mill after helping save Mineral County business, hundreds of jobs

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester’s long-time support for Mineral County’s Tricon Timber is paying off, with the logging company recently reaching a final buy-out agreement with the Forest Service to cancel an expensive logging contract signed before the economic recession.

Tricon Timber, which employs 200 Montanans and supports 600 subcontractors, is Mineral County’s largest private employer and one of the largest sawmills operating in Montana. But the logging contracts it signed with the Forest Service before the recession became uneconomic when the housing market collapsed in 2008 and the price of wood plummeted.

When negotiations with the Forest Service over the contracts failed to make progress, Tricon called in Tester, who convinced the agency to issue a decision allowing the logging business to pay a fair buy-out fee when economic conditions make timber contracts impossible to fulfill.

“Like much of Montana’s timber industry, the housing collapse hit us head on, and the drop in log prices meant catastrophic losses,” said Ken Verley, owner of Tricon Timber. “Thanks to Senator Tester’s dedication to forest jobs and northwest Montana’s economy, Tricon will stay in business and our employees will stay on the job. We appreciate his perseverance and willingness to step forward for the benefit of all.”

Tricon signed four pre-recession contracts with the Forest Service that required logs to be taken out by helicopter. It costs $560 per thousand board feet to deliver these logs to the sawmill, but after the economic recession they would have returned only $240 per thousand board feet.

The agreement will allow the company to forgo further helicopter logging in Lolo National Forest. Earlier last year, Tricon and the Forest Service reached an agreement to waive further logging in Panhandle National Forest.

Tester on Friday toured Tricon’s mill in Mineral County, saying he fought hard for the small business because of how much was at stake for the local economy.

“Tricon employs hundreds of hard-working Montanans who support families that strengthen western Montana’s economy,” Tester said. “These responsible agreements let the Forest Service get a return for their investment while helping Tricon harvest new lands at current prices so it can support Mineral County’s economy and put Montanans to work in the woods.”

Tester is a strong believer in the economic value of responsible logging. His landmark Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which mandates logging on National Forest Service land while also setting aside some of Montana’s treasured lands, was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in December with bipartisan support.

Tester’s bill, which is the product of a wide-range of Montanans working together, would empower local officials to collaborate to responsibly log and manage Montana’s forests.