SEELEY LAKE - Pyramid Mountain Lumber Company in Seeley Lake is the oldest surviving family-owned and operated lumber mill in Montana, surviving a decline in the housing market and operating on a decreasing supply of raw materials.
"We've seen a lot of mill closures since I've been here," said Loren Rose, the Chief Operating Officer for Pyramid Mountain Lumber. "Most of them were not family-owned, not locally-owned, and the decisions were not made in Montana."
To avoid closure in November of 2000 by modernizing, the company purchased state-of-the-art equipment that uses lasers and robotics technology to get the most out of every log.
Mike McGrew is the Quality Control Specialist at Pyramid Mountain Lumber. "And, in a nutshell," he said, "What I do is make sure that we're getting the most value out of every log that we possibly can."
While producing quality lumber products is the company's objective, Rose says being a trustworthy steward of the land is its hallmark. Because the business works to create and maintain healthy forests, it is recognized as The Stewardship Company.
Most recently, Pyramid Mountain Lumber teamed up with Bitterroot National Forest on a stewardship contracting project to harvest timber in the Bass Creek area to help thin out trees, reduce mountain pine beetle spread and improve the overall health of the forest.
"That's a Forest Service contract where, instead of just buying the trees and sending the money to the U.S. Treasury, the trees are traded for services that need to be done on the local forests," mentioned Rose.
"It's fantastic," added McGrew. "It totally changed the dynamic and I'm really proud of the company for getting involved in that. Most of us live in Western Montana because we love the country. We love the wildness about it."
It's something McGrew, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, expects to see a lot more of in the future. But, Rose tells the chilling reality of the timber industry...
"If you went to any sawmill in Montana and you asked them what their number one concern would be, the answer would be the same everywhere and that's raw materials," Rose stated. "For the mills that are left to make it, the Forest Service is going to have to make up the difference. If the Forest Service can't make up the difference, that will mean loss of production and loss of mills."
In April, Rose traveled to Washington, D.C. to show his support for the restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities act. The legislation calls for reforming the management of federal lands to harvest overgrown forests, dying timber, and improve forest health.