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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Timber association will disband after 75 years

A longtime advocacy group for Idaho’s timber industry will close at the end of the year.

Members recently decided to disband the Intermountain Forest Association at the end of December, when the two remaining employees will lose their jobs.

“The companies have changed, the people have changed and the economics have changed,” said Jim Riley, president of the Coeur d’Alene-based association. “They decided they wanted to proceed independently, as opposed to an organization.”

Sales and mergers altered Idaho’s timber industry over the past decade, consolidating holdings and bringing new players into the state. The companies decided they preferred to handle lobbying and public policy issues on their own, though they’ll continue to work together on some issues, according to a letter signed by the association’s executive committee.

The decision comes amid particularly difficult economic times for the timber industry. Last year, Western sawmills produced the lowest output of lumber since record-keeping began in the 1940s. New home construction, which drives demand for lumber, was at its lowest level nationally since 1945.

“It is with a great deal of nostalgia and some sadness that we have made this difficult decision,” said Scott Atkison, chairman of the association’s board of directors, in a letter announcing the closure. But Idaho’s overall timber industry remains healthy and should rebound when national home construction picks up, the letter said.

Intermountain Forest Association’s roots date back about 75 years. The organization also represented mills and timberland owners in other Western states, but most of its funding came from Idaho.

The group lobbied on matters “from the courthouse to the White House,” Riley said. Over the years, the association supported additional lanes for U.S. Highway 95, a major commercial route for logging trucks. Members were also active in international trade issues, including Canadian softwood lumber.

Members said that exports of subsidized lumber from Canada were flooding the U.S. market, driving down prices and hurting domestic producers.