Like the shimmering waters of an otherwise still and quiet lake, the slightest breeze brings the tree to life. Its leaves rustle and rattle and, in the fall, turn a beautiful, golden yellow.

It's the "quaking aspen" and it reflects the beauty and serenity of the forest. Elk and deer polish their antlers on its white trunk, and bear marks are occasionally visible where they have sharpened their claws on the bark of the tree.The aspen has been of little commercial use in the past, but changes in that status are expected to enhance the ecosystem on the Fishlake National Forest.

The aspen has occasionally been ground up for packing material, and it is infrequently used for landscape fencing. It burns quickly, so its use is limited even in fireplaces or for home heating.

However, the tree's uses will provide an economic asset, and at the same time U.S. Forest Service personnel believe its harvesting will enhance the ecosystem of the forest.

Utah Aspen Mills, a subsidiary of Jensen Lumber Co. in Ovid, Idaho, started construction on a plant in the small Sevier county town of Sigurd about a year ago and began production for new aspen uses last fall.

Now the company is forging ahead on a second phase of the Utah venture. It's going to be a year-round industry, according to Bob Jensen, principal owner of the parent company and the new plant in Sevier County.

"We think the time will come when we can substitute aspen for other things," Jensen said. "It won't be used for everything, but it's a species that hasn't been utilized in the past and is readily available."

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Utah Aspen Mills' program is projected to "provide a unique opportunity because capability and flexibility fit well with aspen management plans," according to Toby Martinez, supervisor of the Fishlake National Forest.

The harvesting and milling operation has also caught the eye of Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. He is elated over the potential for aspen processing for rural areas of the state, noting that everyone wins when "marriages" are created between value-added resource development and environmentally sound resource management.

Aspen Mills is getting strong support from local, state and federal agencies.

The mill has been manufacturing pre-cut components for pallets and crating materials, Jensen said. "We are shipping to markets in Denver, the West Coast and Salt Lake City." He said the markets have been above expectations.

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