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Inland Empire

Portable Sawmills Sought for Beetle-Damaged Trees

San Bernardino County officials want to set up machines and lure permanent plants.

September 16, 2003|Hugo Martin | Times Staff Writer

More than a hundred years after the last sawmill left San Bernardino County, the state and county are proposing to open temporary mills in Lake Arrowhead to make lumber out of trees that have been killed or weakened by a devastating bark beetle infestation.

Over the past few months, county and private crews have been removing about 800 tons of timber per day from the parched, beetle-infested San Bernardino Mountains. Nearly all of the trees have been burned in county-run incinerators or buried in landfills. Tree-cutting firms have said that very little of the timber is sold for lumber because it is not profitable to haul the timber to the nearest sawmill, which is in Terra Bella, a town north of Bakersfield.

In hopes of spurring private firms to consider opening sawmills in the area, the Board of Supervisors is expected to vote today to enter into an agreement with the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to borrow two portable sawmills that private contractors can use for three months.

Under the plan, the contractors, which will be selected by county staff, will use the sawmills to cut and sell the lumber for construction or other uses. The damage to the trees is mostly on the surface and wouldn't affect its use in construction. If the temporary sawmills become profitable, county officials hope the contractors will consider opening mills in the area.

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