Oregon timber harvest levels
From the end of World War II until 1989, timber harvests in Oregon generally ranged from 7 to 9 billion board feet annually. Between 1989 and 1995, timber harvest on federal lands dropped about 90 percent, caused mainly by environmental litigation, the listing of the northern spotted owl and a number of fish as threatened species, and related changes in federal management emphasis.
Harvests from private lands have remained relatively stable, although the Great Recession (2007-09) and the collapse of the housing
market brought a severe contraction in the U.S. demand for lumber. Consequently, Oregon’s timber harvest reached a modern-era low in 2009, the smallest harvest since the Great Depression in 1934. By 2013, the harvest had rebounded to roughly pre-recession levels. In the three most recent years where data is available (2015-2017), Oregon timber harvest remained steady at around 3.8 billion board feet.
Sustainability of Oregon’s timber harvest
On Oregon’s private forestland, where most timber harvest happens in the state, the amount of wood harvested each year is about 77 percent of the annual timber growth. About 11 percent of that growth is offset by trees that die from causes such as fire, insects and disease.
On federal lands, only about 8 percent of the annual timber growth is harvested each year. The amount of timber that dies offsets annual growth by 36 percent. The remainder of the growth, a net change of 56 percent, adds to the volume of standing timber in those forests.
High net change in growth isn’t always beneficial, however. For example, in federal ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests in eastern and south central Oregon, it has created unusually dense forests with stressed trees that are more prone to insect infestation, disease and uncharacteristically severe fire.
No. 1 in softwood lumber
Oregon has led the nation in the production of softwood lumber for many years.
Oregon’s lumber output of 5.5 billion board feet in 2017 accounted for about 16.2 percent of total U.S. production. That’s an increase of 43 percent from the recessionary low in 2009 of 3.8 billion board feet. However, Oregon sawmill output in 2017 is only about 73 percent of the pre- recessionary high in 2005.
No. 1 in plywood
Oregon dominates U.S. production of softwood construction plywood. In fact, Oregon accounted for about 28 percent of total U.S. plywood production in 2017, up from 22 percent in 2009.
In 2017, 15 plywood mills were operating in Oregon, of 50 total nationwide. Louisiana, the second-place state in production, had only five plywood mills, and no other state had more than three.
Overall, U.S. plywood production has been challenged by cheaper strand-board products that have taken market share in some uses. Oregon has no mills that make strand-board. Yet plywood is still a significant business that has rebounded from its recessionary low in 2009.