Our Northwest

Big timber harvest no match for past decades

Friday, July 18, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

Four years after hitting a low point, Oregon’s timber harvest rebounded to 4.2 billion board feet in 2013, much higher than the 2.7 billion figure of 2009.
   Oregon foresters credit strong exports and an improving housing market.
   In comparison, the state timber harvest was 9.74 billion board feet in 1972, and it hovered above the 8 billion mark through the mid-1980s before environmental issues prompted cutbacks.
   I grew up thinking of Washington and Oregon as big-time logging states. Indeed, the Oregon Department of Forestry says its total harvest averaged more than 8.7 billion board feet through the 1950s and 1960s.
   Washington’s timber harvest peaked in 1926 at 7.6 billion board feet. By the 1950s the state economy already had diversified into airplanes, fruit crops, aluminum, and other goods, but the timber harvest still reached 4.5 billion in 1950, 4.6 billion in 1960, 6.4 billion in 1970, and 5.7 billion in 1980.
   While Oregon harvested 4.2 billion board feet in 2013, Washington harvested 3.2, still good enough to be the No. 2 lumber producer in the U.S. at 13.9%, behind Oregon’s 15.6%.
   But today’s yields are far below those of decades past.
   Sidenote: Mother Nature felled a staggering 11.2 billion board feet of timber in one day when the 1962 Columbus Day Windstorm blasted the Northwest with hurricane-strength winds. Workers quickly built many miles of roads to salvage the timber before it rotted.

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