A pile of cut wood on the side of a northern Maine logging road. Credit: Josh Keefe / BDN

Katahdin Forest Products laid off 20 employees this week in what the Oakland-based company says is an effort to reduce costs and adapt to a cedar harvest season shortened by record-breaking warm weather.

The company operates mills in Ashland and Chester, with a third Ashland location that closed in January after running out of wood.

 “Over 50 years of operation, this record-breaking warm winter was a first. Compounding the weather challenge is a lack of logging crews to make up the difference during the abbreviated cedar harvest season,” CEO David Gordon said in a statement Friday. “We will continue to operate with essential personnel until the wood supply is exhausted.”

Katahdin Forest Products is the parent company of Katahdin Cedar Log Homes, which the company claims is the largest custom log home maker in the country.

The business relies on a supply of northern white cedar trees, which can only be harvested when the ground is frozen between January and March. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, January was the warmest on record for Maine, more than 11 degrees warmer than what’s considered average for the month.

In addition to supply issues, the company cited labor shortages in the logging industry and a lack of skilled workers.

The company expects its remaining two mills will run out of cedar by summer.

“Despite the challenges ahead, [we’re] committed to fulfilling existing orders and obligations with the cedar we currently have in stock,” Gordon said.