For many, the decline of Montana's forestry industry is tied to the recession and the collapse of the housing market. In other words, the problem has to do with a limited demand for wood products.

Ed Regan, Resource Manger for RY Timber says that there are problems with that diagnosis. Regan says the problem is a lack of timber supply from federal lands.

"What's going on is the forest service has a whole bunch of timber, probably about 69% of the classified commercial forest land in the state," Regan said. "It's their turn to step up to the plate and start providing the needs of the industry because what little bit is left on private land is not enough to sustain the seven mill that survived this recession."

Regan says that if the supply problem continues, it could mean the death of even more saw mills in the near future.

"This is anecdotal evidence on my part, with 34 years experience," said Regan. "I don't think there's very many mills with over a years supply of timber in their pipeline. I think the only thing that's going to save the industry is some relief from the incessant litigation that's filed against all of these salvage sales that are out there."

Regan says that RY Timber is only running one shift at it's two mills because of the supply problem and estimates that, at RY Timber alone, approximately 450 jobs could be created if timber was accessible.

Ed Regan: