USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman last week brought together USDA Forest Service leaders and representatives from Colorado to help identify a path forward that allows Intermountain Resources LLC of Montrose, Colo., to operate while a court-appointed receiver continues to look for a buyer. Keeping the mill operational would save more than 100 local jobs.
Under Secretary Sherman met with Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, members of the Montrose business community and the receiver for Intermountain Resources over concerns about the mill. The receiver is attempting to protect the assets of the mill, keep it operational while finding a buyer, and fulfill the mill’s obligation to the Forest Service.
“We care very much about the economic integrity and sustainability of the forest products industry, and we are hopeful the mill in Montrose will continue to do business with the Forest Service well into the future,” Under Secretary Sherman said. “Strong, economically viable rural communities are the backbone of this nation. There needs to be a collective effort between the USDA, including the Forest Service, state and local governments and private industry in the support of our restoration efforts and the restoration economy.”
Intermountain Resources is under court-ordered receivership after the business suspended operations then shut down in May, which company officials said culminated a two-year battle to stay viable during an economic downturn that greatly diminished the demand for construction timber. Intermountain, which also has a mill in Wyoming, is one of the largest sawmills in the West and one of only three sawmills on Colorado’s Western slope.
By bringing all parties to the table, the Forest Service helped the company identify an adequate supply of timber in current contracts that they can operate profitably in today’s economy. This has enabled the mill to continue operations, hopefully providing time to identify a new owner.
Under Secretary Sherman also noted that USDA’s Rural Development Office could be of assistance in helping a new company buy Intermountain Resources, LLC. Rural Development offers financial assistance to new and expanding businesses through its Business & Industry Loan Guarantee Program, and technical assistance in forming an employee-owned company or cooperative through its partnership with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative and Economic Development Center. Sherman encouraged meeting attendees to contact the Rural Development State Office in Denver for more information.
“We understand that these are difficult economic times,” said Tony Dixon, acting regional forester of the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region, who also attended the meeting. “We will continue to work with communities on opportunities that support forest restoration throughout the Rockies.”
Patrick Donovan, receiver for Intermountain Resources LLC, applauded the efforts of Under Secretary Sherman and the Forest Service.
“The meeting was productive and a good step forward in helping to rehabilitate the operations of the Intermountain Resources mill in Montrose. We look forward to working in cooperation with the Forest Service toward a mutually beneficial outcome for our collective interests,” he said. “The mill is an important component of the forest health initiative in Colorado, and we are hopeful that we can restructure its operations to allow it to continue to play a very critical role in Forest Service initiatives.”
Under Secretary Sherman said that USDA is committed to finding solutions that provide economic opportunities to rural communities, while meeting the Forest Service charge of protecting the country’s natural resources.
“I am optimistic that these discussions helped pave the way for the receiver of Intermountain Resources to keep the mill operational and show it as a viable commodity for a potential buyer,” Under Secretary Sherman said.