Locals Rally to Keep Staggering Sawmill Alive

This weekend Fox News Channel launches a new show, Only on Fox. The show is dedicated to bringing you the sort of stories you won't see anywhere else -- be they about the United Nations' increasing impact on Americans' daily lives or the struggle of one politically incorrect Minnessota teen.  Hosted by Trace Gallagher, it airs Saturdays at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT and Sundays at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT. To find Fox News Channel on your local cable system, click here. In this, one of several stories from this week's show, we see how rural residents of the Northwest banded together to try and save a fixture of their local economy.

EUREKA, Mont. -- Thousands of Westerners have been rallying to the aid of a struggling sawmill, with the hopes that this show of rural solidarity will send a message to policy makers in Washington, DC.

Stiff environmental regulations imposed during the Clinton administration have taken a heavy toll on Eureka, a logging community of about 1,000 people in Northwest Montana.

"I had to lay off 40 employees and a lot of them were friends," said Jim Hurst, co-owner of the Owens & Hurst sawmill. "It's real hard for me to choke that down."

Federal regulations have kept loggers out of the nearby Kootenai National Forest.

"You picture a dog on a short leash that starves to death because he can't reach his food dish," Hurst said.

Adding insult to injury, thousands of acres of trees killed in last summer's wildfires are in plain view of the mill. Hurst estimates it is enough timber to keep his business open for another five years. But federal logging restrictions have blocked efforts to salvage the deadwood.

Some have decided to take matters into their own hands, cutting trees on their own private land and donating them to the mill. Many are hauling logs for hundreds of miles in small pickup trucks.

What has been dubbed the "Eureka Log Haul" had its busiest day on May 17, when more than 3,000 people from 12 states descended on the town for a spirited rally and parade.

"It almost brings tears to my eyes," said Eureka resident Doug Newmaster, as he unloaded an old pickup truck filled with small logs.

In addition to helping the mill, the Eureka Log Haul packs a political punch.

"The message we're trying to get to Washington is that there are reasonable people who live in our rural areas and they've been sitting in an unreasonable situation for a long time with the previous administration," said Bruce Vincent, a fourth-generation logger.

Eureka shares its economic woes with hundreds of rural communities throughout the West. Rally organizers say current logging restrictions are not only costing thousands of jobs, but leaving America's national forests cluttered with underbrush that has been fueling the devastating fires of recent years.

"Our biggest problem in this country isn't that we don't have enough trees. It's that we have too many trees," said Ed Eggleston, one of the organizers of the Eureka Log Haul. "We need to go in there and remove some of those trees so that the rest of the trees can be healthy."

Participants in the Eureka Log Haul are urging the new president to reverse what they consider serious mistakes of the previous administration.

"I think most of the West would describe the Clinton-Gore years as the years in which the federal government did indeed wage war on rural America," said Jim Petersen, editor of Evergreen Magazine.

With their small populations, hundreds of Western communities like Eureka often find it hard getting the attention of federal policy makers. Eureka Log Haul organizers hope by gathering these people together, their collective voice is loud enough to be heard in Washington, D.C.