The falling timber harvests have environmental and economic repercussions for Oregonians. Mills closing and lower lumber and wood products employment have hit rural communities hard, and contributed to the current statewide unemployment rate of 12.2 percent.
Oregon's timber harvests continued to decline in 2008, with a total harvest of 3.44 billion board feet. The total cut decreased nine percent from the 2007 harvest volume of 3.80 billion board feet. "These are the lowest harvest levels we have seen in Oregon since the recession-based lows of 2001," said Gary Lettman, Oregon Department of Forestry forest economist. "That harvest was also 3.44 billion board feet and only a fraction of a percent lower than this year's levels. Preliminary data for 2009 project harvest levels will drop even further — to approximately 3 billion board feet."
The drop in harvested volume came primarily from a continued decrease in harvests by private forestland owners. A 9 percent, or 247 million board feet, decrease in volume from forest industry land owners was accompanied by a 35 percent decline in harvests on non-industrial private forest lands, which declined from an overall harvest of 240 million board feet in 2007 to 156 million board feet in 2008 — a 63 percent decrease since 2006. Federal harvests remained at historically low levels, accounting for only 9 percent of the total harvest. State harvests increased marginally, from 276 million board feet in 2007 to 278 million board feet in 2008, due to wood salvaged in 2008 from the storm in early December 2007.
The falling timber harvests have environmental and economic repercussions for Oregonians. Mills closing and lower lumber and wood products employment have hit rural communities hard, and contributed to the current statewide unemployment rate of 12.2 percent. Sixteen percent of Oregon's lumber and plywood mills have closed since 2005 and few remain in many rural areas.
"Only nine sawmills remain in operation in all of eastern Oregon," said Lettman. "This reduction in lumber and plywood mills across Oregon also means there are less mill residuals available for biomass energy and paper products, and less industry infrastructure remaining to complete much-needed forest restoration work."
Harvests decreased in all western Oregon counties except for Clatsop, Jackson, Multnomah and Tillamook; resulting in the nearly 9 percent harvest decrease in the region. Lane County remains the highest producer of timber in Oregon; however the 432 million board feet harvested in 2008 is a 14 percent decrease from the 2007 harvest of 504 million board feet. Clatsop County was second, increasing their harvest to 420 million board feet due to storm-damaged trees. Douglas and Coos counties were third and fourth; with 416 and 282 million board feet respectively.
Harvest levels in eastern Oregon also significantly diminished; with the exceptions of Baker, Deschutes, Jefferson, Lake and Umatilla counties. Klamath county remains the highest timber producer, despite a nearly 40 percent reduction in harvests since 2007.
The 2008 report, as well as previous annual reports, is available online on the department's website at this link.