Montana timber industry braces for pandemic effects

Mike Sheuman hauls a load of logs up a mountainside in the East Fork of the Bitterroot in 2019. Timber workers face fewer problems with the COVID-19 pandemic this year than other industries, but uncertain economic times remain ahead. Perry Backus, Ravalli Republic

By / ROB CHANEY, The Sun Times

Timber workers across the West stand a better chance of overcoming pandemic-related economic shocks than many other industries this year, but rural economies still need to brace for more trouble.

“When you’re dependent on one or two primary resources, even minor downturns can wreak havoc,” said Laura Schweitzer of the Council of Western State Foresters during a Western Governors Association webinar last week. “The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting challenges that go beyond economic challenges. It’s things like social distancing rules when you’re trying to meet collaborative goals, or how to get work done on the landscape when you’re struggling to get help from agencies with limited activity or budget cuts.”