Montana Wood products industry losing a big player

Smurfit-Stone to close and leave over 400 jobless-

Two stories:

Montana Wood products industry losing a big player. By Rob Cheney of the Missoulian.
Western Montana forest fuel reduction projects will take a big hit. By Perry Backus. Ravalli Republic

Events like this may make the mandatory logging goals in Senator Tester’s “wilderness bill” completely irrelevant. In fact, the anticipation of this effect of the recession may be one reason some conservation organizations are supporting his bill.

Basic economics. When the supply is huge (all the dead wood) and the demand low (due to recession), price will drop and the industry will shrink.






  1. jimbob Avatar

    I always find it interesting that when politicians want to steamroll environmentalists and envir. regulations they scream about “losing jobs” and “losing money”. You know what? That is a natural cycle—-unfortunately with logging, drilling, and mining, they will eventually shut down, causing people to lose their jobs, but the areas will never be the same again!!! Those industries are temporary fixes for an economy at best.

  2. Rolling Mountain Avatar
    Rolling Mountain

    Fact is Stone Container carried a huge debt since it went on a buying frenzy with junk bonds in the 80s buying up mills left and right and they never got out of it.

    Yes, the USFS was subsidizing the industry through below cost timber sales and its road building program. That ensured logging companies access to cheap trees which Stone would mainly buy from outfits like LP and Plum Creek.

    Not reported in the news story was a major blunder by company CEOs who backed then Governor Marc Racicot’s energy deregulation scheme in the 90s which nearly sunk the company. Hundreds of millions lost on that bid alone. (The mill consumed as much energy as all residents/businesses combined in Missoula). And Racicot went on to work for Enron. You ‘all see how this works?

    After getting away with it for years, Stone Container was finally held to account for flagrant Clean Air, Clean Water, and EPCRA crimes by determined locals who worked years to force the mill to clean up its pollution, and they did by shutting down their chlorine bleach plant and reducing the toxic crud they were burning coming off the recycling plant.

    Stone was a major polluter in Missoula valley and the Clark Fork river and I hope there is an effort underway to cleanup the mill site which leaves behind huge complexes of waste ponds in a migratory bird corridor. Environmental cleanup and restoration of the site would help ease the financial strain caused by the $40 million in payroll loss.

    The real story is with the closure of Stone Container in Frenchtown, the Stimson mill in Bonner, the removal of Milltown dam and a million cubic yards of toxic sediment from historic mining in Butte dumped into the Clark Fork, tens of thousand of residents will have a cleaner environment to live in. Given time the Blackfoot and Clark Fork confluence should heal up and recover its native trout populations.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan