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COLUMBIA FALLS - Plum Creek Timber Co. said Thursday it will close a sawmill, idle three others and reduce production at a fiberboard plant in Montana due to the weak housing market and less demand for wood products.

The company said the moves would eliminate 145 jobs.

Plum Creek said it will close a mill in Fortine in March and temporarily reduce operations at a mill in Kalispell through February and possibly March.

Both mills produce stud-grade lumber for home construction. The company said the Kalispell mill can make up the volume produced at Fortine when sales improve.

The company also said it would go from 1.5 shifts to one shift at its Pablo pine board sawmill and will idle a similar mill at Columbia Falls at least through February and possibly into March. Those mills make products mostly used in home repairs and remodeling.

And Plum Creek said beginning Jan. 19 it would reduce production lines at its Columbia Falls plant that produces medium-density fiberboard.

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Chief Executive Rick Holley said the lumber business has been hit hard by the weak housing market and job cuts "are necessary to match supply with the eroding demand for our wood products."

Seattle-based Plum Creek Timber owns more than 7 million acres of timber land and 10 wood-products plants in the Northwest.

Plum Creek shares rose 43 cents to $33.17 in regular trading, and fell 8 cents in extended trading after the production cuts were announced.

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