Data recently released by the Oregon Department of Forestry shows that timber harvest levels statewide have increased for the second year in a row. Harvests, which were at a low of 2.75 billion board feet in 2009 following the collapse of the domestic housing market in 2008, posted gains in 2010 and 2011.
In 2011, approximately 3.65 billion board feet were harvested in Oregon, an increase of 32 percent from 2009’s low and 13 percent from 2010’s harvest numbers.
“Much of these gains can be attributed to an active export market to Eastern Asia, especially China,” said Brandon Kaetzel, the Oregon Department of Forestry's principal forest economist. “The U.S. housing market's slow recovery and other domestic markets are also driving demand for Oregon wood products.”
Locally, both Columbia and Clatsop counties have seen similar harvest increases. Columbia County, which had seen a decline of more than 26 percent in 2008 and another drop of nearly 2 percent in 2009, has rebounded to pre-2009 export numbers.
In 2011, Columbia County harvested 144,864 board feet, compared to 115,536 board feet in 2008. However, harvests are still down from 2007’s 155,993 board feet harvested.
“If you go all the way back to 2006 and throw out the low and throw out the high and average that out, I would say the harvest in Columbia County is on the average of what you might normally see,” said Weyerhauser’s Greg Miller. “It is coming up a bit because a lot of land owners – although I can’t speak for all of the land owners in Columbia County – had deferred a bit during the down demand.”
Now that demand for timber, especially log exports to Asian markets, has increased, some of those land owners have begun harvesting their properties.
“Our harvest is up a little bit, not huge or anything, due to our deferral of harvest activities during the poor demand years,” said Miller.
Although timber harvests for neighboring Clatsop County had remained positive in 2008 with an increase of 23 percent and 417,338 board feet harvested, those numbers fell sharply in 2009 with a decline of nearly 32 percent to just 284,000 board feet. In 2011, timber harvests were up by just 1.1 percent with 285,000 board feet.
Not every company has seen an increase in production though.
“For us there are no ups and downs,” said Ed Hendrix, operations manager for Longview Timber, which operates out of Washington and northwest Oregon. “We have three contractors in Deer Island and they are always harvesting. They just harvest different stands depending on demand.”
Hendrix said that demand has shifted over the past few years from high-quality timber used in Japanese home building to low grade wood used in Chinese and domestic markets.
Many timber exporters in Columbia County are still recovering from the sharp declines seen over the past decade. While countywide timber harvests have continued to climb since 2008, those numbers are still quite a bit lower than 2000’s harvest of nearly 229,000 board feet.
“What you really saw in 2007 – that big hit – that was all housing market related. When housing collapsed, or the demand for lumber to build houses really followed,” said Teevin Brothers General Manager Eric Oien. “We’ve only seen in the last 12-18 months seen a return, but housing hasn’t been anywhere to anywhere near those levels but there has been an increased production of lumber.”
Like others, Teevin Brothers relies on exports to Asian markets to offset decreases to domestic markets.
“China has created a huge demand for logs out of Oregon and Washington. Exportable timber has seen a huge boom in the last two or three years,” said Oien.
Unfortunately, demand from China does seem to have been falling off over the past year.
“It’s certainly cooled off. It’s dropped a lot from where it was last year but in the last 12 months we’ve seen a pretty sustainable level of activity; very consistent but not nearly as frenzied as it was in spring of 2011,” Oien said.
Approximately 49 percent, or 30.2 million acres, of Oregon is forested. Federal forestlands account for 60 percent of these forestlands, industrial forestlands for 19 percent, family forestland owners own 15 percent, state-owned forests comprise 3 percent, and all other forestland owners (counties, Tribal, etc.), 3 percent.
Timber harvests from 2010 to 2011 increased on U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands in Oregon by 24 and 47 percent, respectively. The Forest Service had the largest increase, up 120 million board feet, for a 2011 total harvest of 374 million board feet - the highest total for Forest Service lands since 1997.
Likewise, 165 million board feet were harvested on Bureau of Land Management lands, the largest total since 1996.
Even with these increases, 2011 federal timber harvests are only 10 percent of the 25-year high in 1988, when 4.93 billion board feet was harvested. Other public forestlands (e.g., county lands) posted a 38 percent increase, for a total of 44 million board feet harvested in 2011.
Harvests increased over 2010 levels on all public lands except for state forestlands, where there was a decrease of 6 percent, for a 2011 total of 280 million board feet; however, this harvest level is slightly above the five-year average of 273 million board feet from these lands.
Forest industry accounted for nearly 67 percent of Oregon's total timber harvest in 2011, with 2.46 billion board feet, an 11 percent increase from 2010. Family forestland owners accounted for 278 million board feet in 2011, an increase of 22 percent over 2010. Finally, timber harvests decreased from 2010 on Oregon's Native American Tribal forestlands by 34 percent, for a 2011 harvest total of 52 million board feet.
The 2011 western Oregon timber harvest from all ownerships increased 14 percent from 2010, to 3.2 billion board feet. Harvests increased in eastern Oregon by1.6 percent to 406.66 million board feet. Lane County held on to the western Oregon title for most productive county, with a total of 529.55 million board feet harvested in 2011. In eastern Oregon, Klamath County had the most timber harvested, with a total of 106.72 million board feet.
“While log exports remain strong, they have begun to taper off,” said Kaetzel. “I expect that lumber exports, along with increased domestic demand, will continue to drive timber harvests in Oregon.