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A pioneer homestead in the middle of an industrial timber area preserves some of the last old-growth Ponderosa pine trees in the Gold Creek basin 17 miles northeast of Missoula. A corporate strategy of "accelerated old-growth liquidation" drove cutting of most big trees in western Montana's private timberland during the 1970s and '80s.

Look any direction from Missoula and you’ll see thick forests. So why does Montana’s timber industry struggle to find enough wood to cut? This week, the Missoulian looks at how work in the woods shaped the state’s character, economy and ecology.

Sunday: Montana timber families confront the scars and legacy of 20th century logging and ponder how to manage national forests in the future.

Also, Missoula used to be a timber town. What lessons can be learned from the city’s evolution away from work in the woods?

Monday: Logging remains a tough, dangerous and lucrative job in Montana.

Tuesday: Where does wood come from? While most mountainsides in western Montana teem with trees, the old-growth forests they once supported have largely disappeared into sawmills.

Wednesday: When Weyerhaeuser Corp. bought Plum Creek Timber Co. last February, Montanans wondered what it meant for the state’s private timberlands. They should also consider what it means for the national timber industry as the major players operate as real estate investment trusts.

Thursday: Six family-owned companies run the last seven large mills in Montana. Their business models include community loyalty and forest health management as much as sawing logs.

Friday: Although Montana contributes just over 1 percent of the nation’s lumber supply, it’s been the national forest policy battleground for more than a century. Efforts to revive the timber industry and modernize forest management could play out in the final days of this year’s congressional session.

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