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Too Little Logging For Lumber?

Mike Belch

Some lumber mills in northern Wisconsin say low timber harvests from the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest are jeopardizing their businesses.  

Sue Pukall of Arbor Vitae’s Pukall Lumber says the company is sometimes forced to buy logs hauled from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which costs about $200 extra per truckload.

“Ideally we should be able to source all the logs that we need within a 50-75 mile radius of our mill. So when we have to go up into the UP, that’s obviously a lot further than 75 miles.”

Last summer the company curtailed production because it couldn’t get enough logs.  Pukall says that shortage of local timber is also driving up the price of logs.  The company has seen it go up at least 15 percent in the past few years.  Combined with increased transportation costs, Pukall says it’s getting harder for companies to keep consumer prices competitive on a world market, and still stay in business. 

“It really eats at our profit margin because lumber is a commodity product. So that keeps the price of lumber down. But it’s making it really difficult for local sawmills to survive.”

The Oneida County Board passed a resolution this month asking federal officials to increase cutting to meet the allowable quota of about 130 million board feet.  Current harvest rates are about half that.  Environmentalists argue that level of cutting is high enough.  

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