Wednesday, February 28, 2024

More history on the Stimson Mill

| December 15, 2023 7:00 AM

I appreciated reading Thomas Maffei’s comments regarding timber supply from Kootenai National Forest back in the days of the Stimson Mill (Setting the record straight on Kootenai National Forest timber sales, The Western News, Dec. 1, 2023). 

Tom’s recounting of events squared with my experience as well. (I do not recall seeing Mr. Peterson in attendance at any of the Stimson timber task force meetings).

In addition to Tom’s accurate report from that time, there are a few other factors that can be incorporated into the historical record. In 2002, Stimson was being hammered with rapidly escalating and ultimately untenable insurance premiums due to W.R. Grace’s asbestos legacy.

Russia was undercutting (by only about $20 per thousand board feet) Stimson’s highly profitable marine grade plywood market with old growth birch. Finally, it was an election cycle for Senator Max Baucus. 

There were many who believed it was an attempt to put him nonetheless on a hot seat. (This was particularly ironic because Senator Baucus had visited Libby more than twenty times in his efforts to secure remediation and cleanup and funding for the asbestos legacy).

 Our naïveté in those days was as deep as our belief that the effort to save the mill was sincere, and that timber supply really was the issue. We’ve all gotten a bit of an education since then.

The Yaak Valley Forest Council is the only on-the-ground organization field truthing every acre of every proposed vegetative management proposal north of the Kootenai River to the Canadian border. 

We work to help recover the Yaak’s tiny grizzly population and champion the protection of our old and mature forests: a highly effective and common sense way to preserve biodiversity and store immense amounts of carbon in long-term safekeeping. 

For more information about our group and our ongoing efforts, visit us at

Rick Bass, Director, Yaak Valley Forest Council