Students learn about the history of the timber industry in Montana, and watch a short video about the industry’s revival during and following World War II. They take notes and answer handout questions evaluating Montana's timber industry.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Unit 9: Industry – Mining, Timber, and Agriculture" where students will consider the major resources and enterprises that form the basis of Montana’s economy.
5.2: Identify basic economic concepts (e.g., supply and demand, price) that explain events and issues in the community.
5.6: Identify and describe examples in which science and technology have affected economic conditions (e.g., assembly line, robotics, internet, media advertising).
Helena District 5.2: Relate concept of supply and demand to Montana’s economic development.
- Video: Montana Mosaic: Montana Industry – The Timber Years
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
- Class set of the Timber Years handout
- Explain to students that since Montana is highly forested, the timber industry is a primary sector of the state’s economy. American Indians performed the earliest timber harvesting in Montana. They harvested trees for arrows, bows, and teepee poles. The introduction of metal tools and whipsaws allowed fur trappers and traders to build log buildings. The circular saw aided workers in the first sawmill in Montana. The first boom in the local timber industry came with the 1862 gold rush. Lumber was in demand for firewood, homes, wagons, bridges, and more. Railroads of the 1880s also called for lumber in their construction, and then acted as a mode of transportation to move the product.
- Explain that a drought in the 1920s brought economic hardship for Montana and, as a result, there was a slowdown in the timber industry. Tell students that they will be watching a video about how the timber industry in Montana became a part of the national scene.
- Distribute the Timber Years handout to students, and instruct them to take notes as they watch.
- Play the video, Montana Mosaic: Montana Industry – The Timber Years. [2:10]
- Explain that prices are affected by supply and demand, and that because of the high demand for timber during World War II, the resulting prices made the timber industry profitable. Explain that because of both the increased construction after the war and paper mills, this demand and its resulting prices continued to be high enough for the industry to boom. Explain that as demand lowers, so does price. Have students think about why demand might have gone down since the 1950s and 1960s.
- Have students complete the questions on the handout.
- World War II [0:25]
- Pulp and paper milling in towns like Missoula help spur growth—this brought new jobs [1:00]
- Timber operations controlled by national and international companies who were willing to shut down their Montana operations if not profitable. Trees take decades and decades to renew. [1:20]
- Answers will vary, but answers should discuss the large amount of forest in Montana or the risks that come with nationally owned timber companies and length of time to renew. [1:49, 1:20]