Olathe lumbermill may close

Louisiana-Pacific contemplates decision

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— Lumbermill giant Louisiana-Pacific is contemplating making a decision to close its Western Slope waferboard plant in Olathe in April, but local Forest Service officials say that step would not have an immediate impact here.

Gary Roper, timber program manager for the Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest in Steamboat Springs, said timber sales resulting from the Routt Divide Blowdown north of here do not go to Olathe. Much of the timber from north Routt goes to a lumbermill in Saratoga, Wyo. The Saratoga mill is also operated by Louisiana-Pacific, but unlike the Olathe plant, the Saratoga mill makes dimensional lumber like two-by-fours. Blowdown timber also goes to Intermountain Resources LLC in Montrose, not far from Olathe, and K&K lumber in Silt.

Louisiana-Pacific is also the purchaser of 2,586 cubic feet (1 million board feet) of standing aspen timber in the south Routt portion of the forest, Roper said. The Hadley Aspen Sale is on the Yampa Ranger District, south of Colorado 134 on Gore Pass. In other terms, the timber purchased by Louisiana-Pacific in the Hadley Sale would be enough to fill 270 log trucks, Roper said.

Although the aspen wood likely would be used at the Olathe plant if it remains open, Roper doubted that a closing of the plant would change Louisiana Pacific's plan to harvest the timber.

"They have other ways to market that timber," Roper said. "They made a down payment, so there's lots of incentive" to follow through on the timber sale, he said. The lumbermill would pay half the value of the timber sale at the midpoint of harvesting, he added.

Waferboard is a timber product used for sheathing the exterior walls of new homes in much the same way that plywood is used. It is able to utilize softer woods like aspen and fir trees.

In contrast to the Hadley sale, logging operations in the blowdown areas north of Steamboat yielded 2 million board feet of timber between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2000. That timber generated 400 trips by logging trucks.

Louisiana-Pacific officials said in January there is a 50-50 chance the Olathe plant will close. Its timber needs are served by between 150 and 200 loggers. A plant spokesman said its dependence on costly timber from public lands is contributing to the talk of shutting the plant.

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