Drop in Oregon Timber Harvest: 2015

Oregon’s timber harvest dropped 8 per cent last year, said OPB News July 25.

Before the great recession, Oregon was producing about 4 billion board feet of lumber a year. That dropped after the recession as people stopped building houses. But it’s been climbing and for the last few years it’s been above 4 billion board feet again, thanks in part to a strong Chinese economy.

Oregon’s timber harvest fell by 8 per cent in 2015, dipping below 4 billion board feet for the first time since 2012.

The Oregon Department of Forestry attributed the decline to a range of factors, but mostly to a drop in exports to Asia, where a slowing economy in China is reducing demand for Oregon logs.

A bad fire season and a wet winter also reduced logging in 2015.

Despite the overall decline to 3.79 billion board feet, there were segments in the state that saw increases, including on United States Forest Service lands on the east side of the Cascades, said the Portland Business Journal also July 25. That harvest was up 14 per cent, marking a second con- secutive year of growth, which ODF credited to stewardship contract work.

Overall, USFS harvests in the state were down 5 per cent to 367 million board feet, pulled down by declines on the west side.


Under an innovative 10-year contract awarded in 2013, restoration work on the Malheur National Forest is structured to provide a steady stream of timber for local processing.

A report last year by the University of Oregon’s Ecosystem Workforce Program said that contract led to 15.5 million board feet of timber harvested in its first year, supporting 101 private sector jobs in Grant County and generating US$2.16 million in economic activity. Half of the harvested timber was processed in Grant County, the U of O report said.

The Forest Service actually reported an increase in the harvest in Harney County as well.

About half of Oregon (49 per cent) is forested, which is approximately 30.2 million acres of forested land.

About 60 per cent of those forests are under federal control, either by the US Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management.

State-owned forests make up just 3 per cent of the total in Oregon. Interestingly, the timber harvest on these state lands was up about 26 per cent, according to the Department of Forestry, jumping from about 230 million board feet to about 290 million board feet — important, but just a fraction of the harvest from federal forests.

Industrial forests make up 19 per cent of Oregon’s total, and family forests add another 15 per cent. Harvests on these private lands were down in 2015.

Declines were even steeper in the private industry harvest, which dominates the state’s timber picture, falling 10 per cent to 2.36 billion board feet. That segment was hit particularly hard by the drop in exports – only logs from private lands can be exported.

ODF Principal Economist Brandon Kaetzel said to the Portland Business Journal “that with demand from Asia falling, exports as a percentage of Oregon timber volume have declined from a range of 15 to 17 per cent to around 8 or 9 per cent. He said Oregon timber has been used for forms in concrete construction in China, and a big drop in construction is taking a toll.”

According to the state agency Business Oregon, Oregon’s forestry industry accounted for 10,353 jobs and had total sales of US$1.8 billion as of 2013. It helps feed a wood products industry that had US$21.9 billion in sales in 2013 and employed 33,547 people.