HELENA, Mont. — A Montana timber company has announced it will indefinitely suspend operations at one of its two sawmills, citing chronic timber supply problems because of litigation.

RY Timber Inc. said layoffs are expected to begin in April at its Townsend location, with about 70 employees affected, the Independent Record reported Monday.

“RY Timber recognizes that these changes will have a significant impact on our loyal employees, their families and the community,” company officials said in a news release. “The company will work with appropriate government agencies to help make the transition for all affected employees as smooth as possible, including separation pay and possible transfers to the Livingston mill.”

The suspension of work will remain in effect until the company has an adequate supply of timber to continue full production operations, officials said.

“For the past several years, the uncertainty and delays caused by litigation of Forest Service timber sales has required RY Timber’s mills to operate at one-half their capacity,” company officials said.

Logs already in supply will go to the Livingston mill, allowing it to operate two shifts at full production, company officials said.

“The company remains hopeful that future court rulings will reverse the anti-forest management decisions of the past and allow sustainable timber harvest into the future,” the company said.

General Manager Dan Richards did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The group Alliance for the Wild Rockies was involved in the litigation, Montana Wood Products Association Executive Director Julia Altemus said.

Alliance Executive Director Mike Garrity said litigation has been unfairly maligned as a scapegoat as RY Timber was outbid for several timber sales in recent years.

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