Timber harvest on the increase

By Katy Nesbitt/The Observer July 10, 2013 12:30 pm

The Oregon timber harvest continues to rebound from its 2009 recession low. A report put out by the state Monday afternoon said the state’s timber harvest was up for the third consecutive year — a 36 percent increase.

For the most part, the counties of Northeastern Oregon reflect a slight increase as well.

The report said across the state there is a 1 billion board feet increase from the timber market’s low in 2009 to the 2012 numbers.

“(The numbers are) attributable during 2012 to a still strong export market and an improving domestic market,” said Brandon Kaetzel, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s principal economist.

In 2009, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest put out 15,438 million board feet of timber and grew that number to almost 19 million board feet in 2010. It jumped considerably to 28.5 million board feet in 2011 before dipping in 2012 to 23.6.

In a county-by-county assessment compiled by Boise Cascade in La Grande, Wallowa County’s timber harvest has fluctuated slightly over the past few years, starting with 41,023 million board feet in 2009 before reaching 52,620 million board feet in 2012.

Union County’s numbers belie the statewide increase — in 2009 the county harvested 49,075 million board feet and the number has dropped every year since. In 2010, 44,770 million board feet were harvested, before falling to 41,083 million board feet in 2011, and 39,968 million board feet in 2012.

Most of the harvest in Eastern Oregon has been on private industrial land, said Lindsay Warness of Boise Cascade. Harvest on federally managed public land has been on the decline for more than two decades and a party of stakeholders known as the Wallowa-Whitman Forest Collaborative are meeting monthly to try and find common ground to increase harvest and forest health at the same time.

Wallowa County’s national forest harvest was at an all-time low in 2009 with only 195 million board feet cut. Over the following three years the number grew — in 2010, 1,987 million board feet were harvested; in 2011, it went up to 2,576; and in 2012, it was up again to 3,068.

The state’s report said that the largest increase in harvest was on tribal lands where there was an increase of 21 percent from the 2011 harvest of 52 million board feet to the 2012 harvest of 63 million board feet.

Private lands in the state — both industrial and non-industrial — also saw increases. Industrial harvests increased from 2.46 billion board feet in 2011 to 2.56 billion board feet in 2012 for an increase of 4 percent.

Harvests on non-industrial private lands, such as small woodland owners, increased by 14.3 percent from 278 million board feet to 318 million board feet. Private and tribal harvests accounted for approximately 78 percent of the timber harvest in Oregon for 2012. The forest industry made up 87 percent of the private harvest.

“One reason for the large increase in private harvests may be that improving markets and demand in 2012 provided incentives for private owners to sell timber that they had held on to through the recession due to unfavorable prices,” Kaetzel said.

Harvests on federal, state and county lands decreased or stayed approximately the same from 2011 to 2012, the report said. The largest decreases in harvest were on state lands and lands belonging to the Bureau of Land Management.

“Even with an improving economy, single-family starts in housing construction can be derailed by increasing interest rates as the Federal Reserve signals an end to its bond-buying program,” Kaetzel said.