The ripple effects of a sawmill shutting down are both immediate and long-term.  While workers face uncertainty, the broader implications touch everyone from local business owners to international lumber markets.

Our article dives into the multifaceted impact that sawmill closures have on communities, economies, and the environment. 

Recent years have seen a sharp increase in sawmill closures across the U.S. and Canada.  Last year alone, over 30 sawmills shut down, impacting thousands of jobs. These closures often happen with little warning, leaving communities scrambling.

Making Headlines:

Allegheny Wood Products surprised hundreds of workers when the Grant County-based business suddenly closed its doors Friday. “Basically we just found out we didn’t have a job anymore.”  Abrupt closure of Allegheny Wood Products impacts hundreds of W.Va. workers

LIVINGSTON, Mont. – R-Y Timber Inc. held a meeting on Thursday with all employees to discuss unemployment options after the company announced the closure of their Livingston plant.  Sawmill closure in Livingston leads to unemployment

The trend has continued into 2024, with more closures announced each month. The reasons vary from decreased demand for lumber to unsustainable operational costs.

Local Sawmill and Papermill Closures Hit Hard

LOCAL ECONOMIES: Sawmill closures hit local economies hard. Towns that relied on these mills for employment face high job losses. This domino effect hurts local businesses, from grocery stores to service providers.

SUPPLY CHAINS: The ripple effects extend beyond local communities. Sawmill closures disrupt supply chains nationwide. Builders and manufacturers who depend on lumber face delays and increased costs. This disruption has led to a rise in lumber prices, affecting everything from home building, to transportation, equipment maintenance, and forestry management.

COMMUNITY EFFECTS: Sawmill closures deliver a heavy blow to small towns and rural communities. Many of these areas rely heavily on sawmills as their economic backbone. When that backbone breaks, it forces public services to stretch thin. Schools, hospitals, and emergency services all suffer from reduced funding as tax revenues decline.

Long-term effects may include increased poverty rates and a downward spiral into economic depression for these areas. Without intervention or diversification of local economies, some communities may never fully recover.

Location, location, location

TWF Papermill Shutdown

Despite some new mill construction and expansion, it’s important not to assume that this balances out the closures.

Simply comparing the lost production volume to new or expanding outputs overlooks significant factors such as geographic displacements or different timber specifications.

For instance, a new mill opening 150 miles away from a closed one, or one using different wood species and specifications, doesn’t result in a net zero exchange. Therefore, such comparisons fail to reflect the true extent of the direct losses and impacts incurred.

Laws, The Cause?

in the article “The Dismantling of the American Timber Industry“, the American Loggers Council argues:

Many contributing factors leading to the decline of the U.S. timber and forest products industries are government policy, regulations, restrictions, unfair trade practices, federal timber supply constraints, and incessant litigation.

Typically a law or new policy is the major cause for a mill shutdown. Lawmakers tend to have a limited in scope view of what they are trying to control. Squeezing out the suppliers in one location is often a knee jerk reaction to try to meet the moving goals of environmental sustainability.

In a way, you can understand. A lawmaker only has power to make an impact for a few years while the impact on the forest needs decades to play out.

Laws and restrictions should address demands

The demand for lumber, forestry products, pulp and so on is not slowing down. Focusing on the demand is the key. Laws that squeeze a sawmill or papermill in one location to the point of closure does nothing address the amount of lumber that needs to be harvested.

Closing a sawmill or papermill only reallocates resources to other locations. Similar to oil and other commodities, as long as there is demand, someone is making money somewhere. If a location is not allowed to supply, that someone making money ends up being someone else.

Who benefits from Sawmill and Papermill shutdowns?

While U.S. forest products mills and facilities close, the U.S. is now the leading global importer of softwood lumber as depicted by these pine products from New Zealand in a U.S. big box store. According to the World Bank, the U.S. imports over $40 billion in wood products from Canada, China and Brazil.

The Dismantling of the American Timber Industry, by the American Loggers Council

Renewable resources help keep the supply chain local

TWF Sawmill Shutdown-Impact-01

Sustainable Forestry Practices: Implementing sustainable harvesting practices ensures that the forest can regenerate over time, providing a continuous supply of wood and other forest products. This can include selective logging, which minimizes environmental impact, and clear-cutting only when appropriate to the species and ecosystem, followed by replanting

Enhancing Bioeconomy: Promoting the use of wood and forest residues not only for traditional products like paper and lumber but also for bioenergy, bioplastics, and other bioproducts can diversify local economies and reduce waste. This approach can help create a circular economy, where waste from one process becomes the input for another, all within the local context.

Policy Support Policies that support research and innovation in this field are essential. They help develop new uses for forest resources that are both environmentally friendly and economically viable. With the right support, the forest-based bioeconomy can flourish, creating jobs while protecting our planet.


he closure of sawmills and papermills isn’t just about lost jobs—it’s about the ripple effects felt throughout communities. It raises important questions: How do we balance lumber demand with environmental sustainability? What role do government policies play? And what can we do to ensure both thriving local economies and a healthy environment? These questions urge us to rethink our strategies and prioritize solutions that benefit people and the planet.

Some U.S. mills recently affected

Sawmill and Papermill shutdowns - the hidden impact when a mill closes01
  • March 2024: Nine Dragons (ND) Paper Mill, Rumford Maine, 100 employees laid off.
  • March 2024: Roseburg Forest Products, Montana, 150 jobs lost.
  • March 2024: Pyramid Mountain Lumber, Montana, 100 jobs lost.
  • Feb 2024: Alleghany Wood Products closes in West Virginia, 800 jobs lost.
  • Feb 2024: DPI Michigan and Ohio. 200 jobs lost.
  • Feb 2024: Cascades closing two facilities in Ontario, one in Connecticut, 310 jobs affected
  • Feb 2024: Interfor Announces Lumber Production Curtailments in Oregon, 100 jobs lost.
  • Feb 2024: Mohawk Fine Papers shutdown leaves nearly 100 jobless.
  • Feb 2024: Domtar to Curtail Paper Operations at Arkansas Ashdown Mill.
  • Jan 2024: West Fraser to close one sawmill, curtail another due to high costs and soft markets (Florida & Arkansas), 219 jobs lost.
  • Jan 2024: PaperWorks Industries to cut 74 jobs in North Carolina as it closes facility.
  • Jan 2024: Soundview Putney, Vermont paper mill to close, putting 125 people out of work.
  • Jan 2024: Graphic Packaging to close Charlotte facility, lay off over 100 employees.
  • Jan 2024: Graphic Packaging to close Grand Rapids-area plant, laying off 111 workers.
  • Jan 2024: WestRock to close Lexington, N.C. facility, lay off 153.
  • Jan 2024: Hampton Lumber closing in Banks, Oregon, 58 jobs lost.
  • Jan 2024: WestRock facility in Washington is closing, laying off 87.
  • Dec 2023: WestRock closure in Charleston, SC. 500 jobs lost.
  • Nov 2023: Bristol Lumber, Vermont, 40 jobs lost.
  • Nov 2023: Boise Cascade to curtail lumber production in Chapman, Alabama, 80 jobs lost
  • Oct 2023: Hood Container cutting 88 jobs, closing N.C. facility.
  • Oct 2023: International Paper to close mill in Orange, TX and reduce production in Pensacola, FL, cut about 900 jobs.
  • Oct 2023: Rayonier Advanced Materials to Temporarily Idle Production at its Paperboard and High-Yield Pulp Operations.
  • Oct 2023: Graphic Packaging to permanently remove K3 CRB machine at Kalamazoo mill in Michigan.
  • Sep 2023: Menasha Packaging cutting 66 Madison County, Illinois jobs.
  • Sep 2023: WestRock closing Fridley, Minnesota facility, laying off 70 employees.
  • Sep 2023: WestRock packaging company to close Louisville, Kentucky locations.
  • Sep 2023: Georgia-Pacific to permanently close Foley Mill in Florida, 535 jobs lost.
  • Sep 2023: Billerud’s Escanaba Mill to temporarily layoff employees in October.
  • Sep 2023: Georgia-Pacific closes mill in Green Bay after 122 years, 170 jobs lost.
  • Aug 2023: WestRock plans to close Indiana facility, 100 employees to lose their jobs.
  • Aug 2023: WestRock Announces Plans to Close Tacoma, Wash., Paper Mill, 400 jobs lost.
  • Jul 2023: WestRock to close St. Louis facility, 52 jobs lost.
  • Jul 2023: Essity to close manufacturing facilities in New York, impacting hundreds of workers, 300 jobs lost.
  • Jul 2023: Paper Excellence’s Catalyst Crofton Mill Shuts Down for July.
  • Jun 2023: Roseburg Forest Products to close Mississippi plant, 100 jobs lost.
  • Jun 2023: Western Forest Products to Temporarily Reduce Lumber Production Due to Weak Market Conditions.
  • Jun 2023: Graphic Packaging to close Auburn, Indiana site, 70 jobs lost.
  • May 2023: Canton paper mill bell sounds for final time, signaling an end after 115 years.
  • May 2023: PCA idling Wallula, Washington mill, 300 laid off.
  • May 2023: Cascades: Permanent closure of a paper machine at the Niagara Falls mill, 40 jobs lost.
  • May 2023: WestRock to Close Paper Mill in North Charleston, South Carolina, 500 jobs lost.
  • May 2023: Cascades to Close Underperforming U.S. Tissue Plants, S.C., OR, 350 jobs lost.
  • Apr 2023: Nine Dragons Paper (ND), Extended downtime announced, Old Town, Maine and Fairmont W.Virginia. (recycled feedstock)
  • Apr 2023: ReEnergy BioMass, Fort Hood, N.Y., 28 jobs lost.
  • Apr 2023: Billerud temporarily idles Escanaba, Michigan mill.
  • Mar 2023: ND Paper Old Town mill shutting down for extended period.
  • Mar 2023: R.R. Donnelley closing Plainfield, Indiana facility, eliminating 79 jobs.
  • Mar 2023: Jay Pixelle

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