- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

GRANGEVILLE, Idaho (AP) - An Idaho lumber mill has been sold and will be shut down, according to a letter sent to workers.

Tuesday’s letter from Blue North Forest Products owner Michael F. Burns confirmed rumors about the Kamiah mill’s closure, reported The Lewiston Tribune (https://bit.ly/1rnxslM ).

The past year has been difficult for the lumber business and “especially poor for Blue North,” Burns wrote. “We have had problems trying to buy enough logs to keep the mill busy, and the lumber markets were driven to new lows by cheap Canadian imports. I tried to keep the business going as long as I could until it became apparent that I couldn’t sustain any more losses.”

The Idaho Forest Group has tentatively purchased the property, according to mill manager Herb Hazen. He said the mill has about 65 employees and he could not comment on their future employment status.

Idaho Forest Group did not return messages seeking comment.

In 2008, Burns rescued what was then called Three Rivers Mill from being dismantled and sold piecemeal.

Mill owners William and Shirley Mulligan had defaulted on millions of dollars in loans from Wells Fargo Bank and no one bought the mill at auction. The mill equipment was going to be sold before Burns stepped in and bought the business for $2.65 million, opening the Blue North mill on the site in 2010.

In his letter to mill employees, Burns said he knew nothing about the sawmill business at the time but was “smitten by the beauty of the area and the connection of the mill to the Kamiah community.”

“I felt an affinity for the wood business and the work culture of a mill town with a history going back to the 1940s,” he wrote.

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune, https://www.lmtribune.com

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