The timber industry was having issues before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tariffs from China were putting a strain on the industry.

Then the pandemic hit, and mills slowed production or closed altogether.

While lumber prices shot up during the height of the pandemic, timbers harvesters and haulers weren’t benefiting from it.

It’s that cumulation that makes the relief funding for those harvesters and haulers so critical, according to Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin).

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Update: The Assembly Committee on State Affairs passed the bill along party lines Tuesday afternoon, according to Rep. Swearigen's office.   The bill did include the amendments that would allow the cooperative to also buy the Park Falls Paper Mill with the WEDC loan. 

An assembly committee will vote on the so-called “Mill Bill” Tuesday. It could lead to the re-opening of two mills in North Central Wisconsin.

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

From home renovations to home building, the pandemic pushed people to start projects.

But not all of those projects are cheap – especially if they require lumber.

Lumber prices are up 180 percent since last spring, and they’re still climbing.

Mills are flourishing, but the same can’t be said of the Northwoods logging industry.

On a hillside south of Crandon, a giant yellow machine grabs logs with its mechanical arm, then cuts them to identical lengths.

Matt Jensen is the man behind the machine.

Wisconsin Historical Society

In the nineteenth century, people believed Wisconsin’s forests to be inexhaustible.  Lumber production proceeded at an unsustainable pace, but few cared as it was assumed that farming would naturally follow.  Successful farming never came on a large scale, and the damaged land needed repairing.  This is where the Trout Lake Nursery comes in.  


The Timber Industry across the US has taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Loggers are getting paid less for their hauls. Papermills reduced their output or shut down completely.

Verso Mill in Wisconsin Rapids was as one of them.

As WXPR previously reported, the mill used 1.5 million tons of wood each year. That’s about 25% percent of total production in Wisconsin.

Some Hope Remains For Future of Paper Mill in Wisconsin Rapids

Dec 21, 2020

There may be some hope for the future of the Verso Paper Mill in Wisconsin Rapids. 

When operating, the mill bought timber from loggers across northern Wisconsin. 

Mayor Shane Blaser says talks with Verso about the paper mill in his city have warmed up in recent weeks. 

“They’re still intent to sell the mill.  So we’re hoping to see that happen and support it in whatever way we can and hopefully see that switch turned back on”, said Blaser.

Wikimedia Commons Oregon Dept. of Transportation

Wisconsin's frozen road law takes effect Thursday.

The frozen road law allows trucks to carry heavier loads of peeled or unpeeled forest products and salt and sand for winter maintenance. Frozen roads are less likely to be damaged by heavy loads when the ground is frozen.

The declaration is issued once the ground under highway pavement is frozen to a depth of at least 18-inches, allowing the maximum gross weight for trucks hauling logs or salt and sand to go up to 98,000 pounds.


  Weight restrictions have gone up on area roads as winter turns to spring. This annual posting poses problems for businesses that require heavy vehicles to haul goods and services. Governments put the restrictions on this time of year to save roads made soft by thawing.

One group hit with the restrictions are loggers. Great Lakes Timber Professionals Director Henry Schienebeck says they know the spring thaw is coming each year, the only question is when...


A request from the Lac Vieux Dessert Chippewa tribe to allow Michigan logging loads to enter Vilas County from a tribal timber sale on the former Simpson property in Michigan on the east side of Lac Vieux Dessert was approved by the Vilas County highway committee by a vote of 4-1, with conditions.

Vilas County Highway Commissioner Nick Scholtes indicated Michigan allows 180,000 pound logging truck loads which is double Wisconsin's 80,000 pounds . . . but they use trucks with 11 axles for weight distribution. He felt the it could be allowed.

Mursau Forest Equipment Bill Moves Forward

Jan 20, 2016

Legislation is moving through Madison that would remove a regulatory burden for the logging industry.

Republican Representative Jeff Mursau of Crivitz authored a bill creating width and weight exemptions for certain logging equipment, allowing users to use short stretches of roadways. Currently, no person may operate any vehicle that exceeds certain statutory size or weight limits without a proper permit.


Foresters and loggers are harvesting timber in Wisconsin following procedures providing a high rate of water quality protection that  according to monitoring the DNR  conducted of timber harvest practices in 2013 and 2014.

DNR forest hydrologist Dave Kafura says in 2013, monitoring teams visited 75 state and county timber sales and found Forestry Best Management Practices were correctly applied on over 97 percent of state sales and 95 percent on county forests....

Heikki Valve photo

The DNR is offering a series of training programs to help loggers and foresters determine how much woody debris to leave on the forest floor after logging.

Experts say when trees are removed during logging, nutrients stored in the soil are also carried away. The leftovers are called "woody biomass" and the DNR's Tricia Knoot says the leftovers are valuable for other wood-related industries. She says the goal is to give workers in the woods the info to leave some behind...

Timber Industry Vies For Lawmaker Attention

Oct 7, 2013
Heikki Valve

Northern timber workers are heading to the capitol Wednesday, hoping to remind lawmakers of the importance of their industry.  

Advocacy group Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association is organizing the trip.  Director Henry Schoenebeck says the group plans to bus 150 people to Madison and park several logging trucks around the capitol. They’ll even bring along special virtual reality machine called a harvester operator simulator, that mimics the experience of cutting down a tree. 

Timber Industry to Hold Forth on Federal Policy

Oct 4, 2013

Members of the forest products industry are testifying on federal policies that affect them.  Great Lakes Timber Professionals has organized a hearing that runs all day Friday and Saturday.  The group’s Director Henry Shienebeck says the aim is to collect testimony to submit to Congress. 

“Really for our association it’s about how do we get a combined message to Washington that says, this is what happens when you do rules and regulations without completely understanding and taking the local economy into account when you do this.”

Too Little Logging For Lumber?

Sep 24, 2013
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.”