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Western lumber production on the upswing

Lumber production at Western sawmills rose 9.2 percent during the first nine months of 2010, compared to the same period last year.

Although the increased production is a hopeful sign, “we’re not out of the doldrums yet,” said Butch Bernhardt, a spokesman for the Western Wood Products Association, which tracks mill activity in 12 Western states.

New home starts, a driver of lumber sales, remain weak nationally, he said.

In 2009, lumber output at western sawmills dropped to the lowest level since the trade association began keeping records in the late 1940s, Bernhardt said. Since 2005, output from Western lumber mills has fallen by nearly 50 percent,

Through Sept. 30, western mills produced 8.6 billion board feet of lumber this year, compared to 7.9 billion board feet for the same period in 2009.