At a time when lumber mills across the West are laying off workers or shutting down, Cascade Mountain Resources is spending about $3 million to build a new mill in this central Utah town.

What makes the company different is its plans to rely on private lands for most of its timber, thus allowing it to avoid the lengthy planning and appeals process that often slows the harvest on lands controlled by the U.S. Forest Service."The private side is a more permanent situation than working with the federal government and, to a certain degree, more enjoyable," said Aaron Million, who handles timber and land acquisition for the company.

But the switch from federal- to private-land harvesting worries environmentalists because Utah has essentially no laws to regulate logging on private property.

"It's clearly an invitation to ecological damage," said George Nickas, assistant coordinator for the Utah Wilderness Association.

Thirteen states have adopted laws that regulate private-land logging. Most are designed to protect water quality for people living downstream and preserve wildlife habitat. The most stringent laws are in California, Oregon and Washington.

But John Heissenbuttel, assistant vice president for forest resources at the American Forest & Paper Association in Washington, D.C., says such regulations are not needed in Utah.

"When you have someone willing to sink $3 million into a new facility, it doesn't make sense for them to cut and run," he said. "If they did that, they wouldn't have the material they need to keep the mill going . . . Economics is a much more powerful incentive than forest practice rules and regulations."

However, Million said his company still would welcome the adoption of state regulations.

"If that doesn't occur, there may be people who come in that don't have a vested interest in the area and do a bad job, either for the landowner or the natural resource," he said. "That would reflect poorly on the entire industry."

Art DuFault, Utah's newly appointed state forester, said his staff is trying to develop voluntary guidelines that private landowners could use to decide how to harvest their trees with a minimum impact on the environment.

The Wellington mill will be south of Price near a railroad spur and coal-loading facility. It will handle about 20 million board feet of lumber each year.