Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Polk County's 2011 timber harvest increased by 19 million board feet over 2010 to 114.7 million board feet.
July 17, 2012
POLK COUNTY -- Statewide timber harvests rose for the second year in a row in 2011 -- and this time Polk County was part of the trend.
In 2010, Polk County's timber cut declined when harvests elsewhere increased. Not in 2011, as the county saw an approximately 19 million board feet jump in harvest, from 95.6 million board feet in 2010 to 114.7 million last year.
A board foot of lumber is 1 foot wide, 1 foot long and 1 inch thick, or the equivalent in volume.
The growth is modest compared to other counties with more forestlands, but it stops several years of decline (since 2006) in harvests in Polk.
"We've had a difficult time the last few years," said Jerry Anderson, the region manager with Forest Capital Partners' office in Monmouth. "In 2011 and this year we've had a better market that's producing at an average level (of the last 10 years)."
He said last year's dip in harvest in Polk County was due to a rise in the market for exporting western hemlock logs. Western hemlock grows mostly in the Oregon Coast Range west of Polk County.
"Western hemlock went very high last year," Anderson said. "That's what I think drove those volumes last year."
In 2011 and so far this year, the market for western hemlock is down and loggers have been cutting Douglas fir again -- good news for Polk County.
After a dip in production the last two years, Polk County's timber harvest rose significantly in 2011.
Most of the rest of the state saw harvest increases, as well.
The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) released the 2011 Oregon timber harvest report last week, which noted a 13 percent increase over 2010.
Harvests have recovered statewide from a low of 2.75 billion board feet in 2009 -- after a steep decline in the housing market in 2008 -- to 3.65 billion last year.
Large privately-owned timber companies accounted for 67 percent of the 2011 harvest with 2.46 billion board feet, an increase of 11 percent from 2010.
The trend was the same for Polk, as large timber firms harvested 101.4 million board feet in 2011 compared to 80.5 million board feet the year before.
Harvests on state-owned, federal Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and small family-owned woodlands declined. Small increases on Native American-owned and county or municipal lands were noted in the report.
"Much of these gains can be attributed to an active export market to eastern Asia, especially China," said Brandon Kaetzel, an ODF forest economist. "The U.S. housing market's slow recovery and other domestic markets are also driving demand for Oregon wood products."
Anderson said Forest Capital had to hire more contractors to fill demand in 2011 and has been able to keep them on the job. He added much of the timber his company is harvesting is going to local mills for processing
Forest Capital log quality manager Ron Smith watches Friday as a loader carries pole logs to a pile at a logging site in the Siletz Basin southwest of Falls City.
"These are not great markets -- they might not even be good, really -- but (they are) certainly better than what we have been seeing," Anderson said.
Greg Miller, a spokesman for Weyerhaeuser, said taken in comparison with harvests since 2006 -- excluding the highest and lowest years -- 2011 was still down about 7 million board feet from the average over those years in Polk County. Still, the growth is encouraging, he said.
"Nevertheless, seeing an uptick in timber harvesting, modest as it is, is good news for our industry," Miller said in an e-mail response.
Industry officials believe this slow improvement may continue.
"While log exports remain strong, they have begun to taper off," Kaetzel said. "I expect that lumber exports, along with increased domestic demand, will continue to drive timber harvest in Oregon."
Higher demand for lumber has improved business at Willamina Lumber Co.
"At Willamina, production is up about 10 percent," said Steve Zika, CEO of Hampton Affiliates, owner of the mill. "We are very encouraged."
"There is more money to be made when we export the finished product," Kaetzel said. "The mills don't get anything when you export raw logs."
Kaetzel said timber prices -- which largely depend on the export market -- are fairly stable now and the domestic housing market is continuing its crawl toward recovery.
"These markets ... they are volatile," Anderson said. "But I think we are out of the woods in the sense that we won't be seeing markets that are so bad that we choose not to do any logging. We will be seeing logging that is at least at an average level and I think that is good for everybody."