California Sawmills Face Massive Backlog as Fires Rage

California sawmill (GPA / Getty)
GPA / Getty

California’s sawmills are reporting a massive lumber backlog as fires rage across the state, and environmental regulations are partly to blame.

With just one sawmill left in the entire southern Sierra region, Sierra Forest Products is facing a tremendous backlog of wood from wildfire-salvaged trees. However, the damaged lumber brings in about 40 percent less profit than fresh trees do and laborers in this dying industry are having a difficult time making ends meet.

Environmentalists have been fighting to keep large tracts of land off limits, and have restricted logging since President Bill Clinton designated the Giant Sequoia forest a National Monument in 2000. Yet loggers argue that many of the Golden State’s forest fires could be prevented if they were allowed to remove more fresh trees.

As Stephen Frank of California Political Review notes, Canada has replaced American wood in the construction of homes too which has taken an even greater chunk of profits away from the U.S. logging industry.

In addition to wood damaged by fire, the loggers have a glut of wood damaged by insects, for which there is there is hardly a market.

Fisk told KQED that he foresees loggers turning to the mulch business in several years to continue making ends meet.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz and on Facebook.


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