Shutdown cuts into Colorado logging

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Colorado officials are asking the U.S. Forest Service to expedite efforts to get timber sales and forest stewardship contracts back up and running following the government shutdown.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said timber products and biomass energy are essential to forest management and to reduce wildfire risks throughout Colorado.

“Jobs are at stake,” Udall said in a statement.

The U.S. Forest Service did not return a phone call seeking comment.

About 25 logging and trucking contractors for Montrose Forest Products were unable to work during the shutdown because the Forest Service prevented work on timber sale contracts on area forests.

Sawmill resource forester Norm Birtcher said the shutdown cut the amount of materials coming into the mill for two weeks just as the mill is trying to stockpile inventory for the spring thaw, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported Tuesday.

“The mill is in jeopardy of shutting down this spring a couple of weeks because of the logs we were unable to bring in,” Birtcher said.

About 90 people work at the mill, with another 60 or so doing trucking, logging and road-building contract work, he said. Some contractor crews were able to shift to private-land timber to keep working and supplying the mill.

The shutdown also affected Hotchkiss-based West Range Reclamation, which does forest health and fuels-reduction treatment work, including under federal forest stewardship contracts.

As of early August, West Range had about 60 employees working around the state, including around 10 at its Hotchkiss office.

Associated Press

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