Guest column: Good neighbors: Conservation and timber products

For the past decade, I’ve had the good fortune of working with Gordy Sanders, Loren Rose, and the Johnson Family from Pyramid Mountain Lumber. Pyramid is the oldest surviving family owned and operated timber mill, stewarded by the Johnson family since 1949. Pyramid lies near the shores of Seeley Lake, near the Lolo National Forest, and employs about 100 Montanans and their families. Many of their staff have spent their entire careers at Pyramid.

A few weeks ago, the Johnson family announced the closure of the mill. For those of us in conservation who have worked with Pyramid for years on forest management and forest fuels reduction projects, it was devastating news.

Recently, an opinion writer from Helena penned a piece about Pyramid’s closure and stated that our shared national forests can manage themselves “for free — if we only let them.” That is a great idea, if we lived in the year 1880 when our national population was 50 million instead of 333 million with thousands of people living in the wildland urban interface. Not to mention the impacts climate change has had on our forests.

The simple fact of the matter is that we used to let our forests burn and regenerate naturally, because we had the space and healthy climate to do so. Now, the Forest Service and other management agencies rely upon forest restoration and forest fuels reduction efforts to retain our forest health and protect against catastrophic wildfire that impacts individuals, communities, and economies. For decades, conservation and timber products have worked productively together, because we have needed each other.

Thanks to the leadership of Gordy Sanders, Loren Rose, and the Johnson Family, we have all prioritized the same thing: a sustainable, healthy environment.

Pyramid is one of the few mills remaining that process lodgepole pine, one of the largest products of forest restoration activities in Montana. As our population grows and temperatures warm globally due to climate change, active forest management will be needed more and more. Not only to reduce forest fuels to hopefully prevent or at least slow the progression of wildfire, but to provide the raw materials we rely upon to build homes and commercial buildings needed to house our families and businesses.

The cost of living is skyrocketing across Montana, especially in areas like Seeley Lake, where the natural beauty of the area attracts second and third homeowners looking for solace amongst the larch and lakes. To preserve what Pyramid has built over the years — a sustainable timber model that prizes Montana families and our outdoor quality of life — the mill will need to be modernized. It will need owners who understand the importance the timber products industry has to our cultural heritage, our public lands and wildlife, and our rural communities that make Montana so darn great.

For the past decade, I’ve watched Pyramid stand by their neighbors, neighbors like wilderness advocates, recreation zealots, small businesses, and ranchers. They’ve been the best of neighbors, even when their return was small. They rolled up their sleeves, put in the hard work and stood by their word. They have been vital partners in conservation. We intend on being good partners and neighbors to them as well, now more than ever.

Becky Edwards is the executive director of the Mountain Mamas, and lives in Bozeman with her husband and three daughters.

Previous Post
Guest column: Women lead, and have led, in conservation
Next Post
BLM Public Lands Rule Brings Balance to Public Lands Management

Related Posts

Skip to content