ST. PAUL  (AP) - The permanent closures this month of the Verso paper mill in Sartell and the Georgia-Pacific hardboard plant in Duluth are compounding the troubles of Minnesota's logging industry.

The state has lost about a third of its loggers in the past few years, leaving about 1,500 still operating.

The Minnesota Timber Producers Association says timber consumption has dropped about a third since the early 2000s. Six plants have closed in the past five years.

Scott Dane of the Associated Contract Loggers and Truckers warns that the entire industry could collapse after Verso's shutdown eliminated a big market for balsam.

Mark Benson says his company got about a quarter of its business from selling balsam to Verso. Benson tells MPR the industry is "close to a dying breed."