OROFINO, Idaho — A lumber mill in northern Idaho has closed down, leaving about 40 people without work.

Tri-Pro Forest Products closed its Orofino mill on Tuesday, The Lewiston Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/2dv3mvJ). Resource Manager Mike Boeck said a lack of cedar logs forced the company to curtail operations at the Clearwater County mill over the past few weeks.

Tri-Pro was the county’s second largest manufacturer behind Nightforce, which produces rifle scopes.

“Over the last few weeks, we have only been able to run the mill a couple or three days a week, and we just can’t survive that,” he said.

Tri-Pro had purchased 3 million to 4 million board feet of cedar in 2014 after the Johnson Bar Fire along the lower Selway River, but litigation by Friends of the Clearwater and Idaho Rivers United against the U.S. Forest Service stopped the transaction.

Boeck said that purchase could have kept the Orofino mill running for another six months.

“It’s not that there’s a lack of resource,” Boeck said. “It’s that it gets tied up in litigation. These environmental groups have pretty much devastated our industry over the years. This isn’t a new problem.”

Friends of the Clearwater and Idaho Rivers United officials said the sale was illegal.

Gary Macfarlane, ecosystem defense director with Friends of the Clearwater in Moscow, said bidders on the sale knew it was facing a legal challenge.

“We won in the court of law because the sale was illegal,” Macfarlane said. “… These are national forests. They do not belong to the lumber industry. They belong to all Americans.”

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

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