Timber Harvests in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

September 27, 2018

Timber harvests hit a recent high in 2017, responding to strong demand from the housing industry. The 2017 harvest in Northwest Oregon was the largest since 2006. Employment in the timber industry decreased slightly in 2017 and remains about 130 jobs above its recession low point.

Benton County

Timber harvests rose 13 percent in 2017 to 127,813,000 board feet, the highest level since 2006. Benton County produces less timber than any of the other four counties in Northwest Oregon. Benton County is the second-smallest county in the region and about 57 percent is forested.
Employment in the county’s logging and lumber and wood product manufacturing industry dropped by 31 in 2017 to 415. The small loss continued a long-term trend of declining timber industry jobs in the county and Northwest Oregon. By way of comparison, a similar level of harvests supported nearly 1,400 jobs in 1990. The county remained home to eight wood product mills and 33 forestry and logging businesses.

Clatsop County

The timber harvest was up 6 percent in Clatsop County in 2017. The harvest in 2017 was 291,390,000 board feet, which was the most since 2008. Harvests in the years since the Great Recession have been below the levels during the housing boom but are respectable when compared with historical levels. Clatsop County is 827 square miles, putting it squarely in the middle of the pack by size among northwest Oregon counties. About 85 percent of the county is forest land, and it includes most of Clatsop State Forest.
Logging and lumber and wood product manufacturing employment in Clatsop County dipped slightly in 2017 with the loss of eight jobs. Employment remains about 150 jobs below its pre-recession level at about 440 jobs in 2017. Somewhat smaller harvests in the 1990s supported more than 500 jobs. There were three wood product mills in the county in 2017 and 16 forestry and logging firms.

Columbia County

The timber harvest in Columbia County climbed by 7 percent in 2017. The total harvest was 177,265,000 board feet. It was the best year since 2006, but still a little below pre-recession years when harvests of more than 200,000,000 board feet were common. Columbia County used to punch above its weight when it came to timber production. Harvest levels routinely matched or exceed nearby Lincoln and Tillamook counties, but that hasn’t been the case since the Great Recession. Columbia County is the smallest county in northwest Oregon, with only 657 square miles. About 75 percent of the county is zoned as forest land.
Employment in logging and lumber and wood product manufacturing was unchanged in 2017 at 451. Employment is up by about 100 jobs from the depths of the recession. Unfortunately, this is only a little more than half its level of the early 2000s. In 2017 there were seven lumber mills and 22 forestry and logging businesses in the county.

Lincoln County

The timber harvest was up 4 percent in Lincoln County in 2017. The harvest was 184,745,000 board feet. The 2017 harvest was in line with levels set before the recession, but well below the peak years of the 1980s. Lincoln County is the second largest in northwest Oregon at 980 square miles. About 90 percent of the county is forest lands.
Employment in the logging and lumber and wood product manufacturing industry was essentially unchanged in 2017 – down three jobs from 2016, and was roughly back to its pre-recession level. There were four lumber mills and 11 logging and forestry businesses in the county.

Tillamook County

The timber harvest in Tillamook County dropped about 9 percent in 2017. The total harvest was 191,879,000 board feet. The recent low harvest in Tillamook County was 142,018,000 board feet in 2009, so the 2017 harvest remained an improvement over that year, and was still above the average for the past 10 years.
Tillamook County is 1,102 square miles, and is the largest of the five counties in northwest Oregon. About 85 percent of the county is zoned as forest land. The county is also home to the Tillamook State Forest.

Employment in logging and lumber and wood product manufacturing fell slightly by 14 jobs in Tillamook County in 2017 to 586 jobs. The county shed about 240 jobs from the industry during the recession. One reason for the drop was the loss of mills. The county had seven mills in this industry in 2006, only four in 2013, and was back up to five mills in 2017. The logging portion of the industry remained relatively stable during the recession and recovery. The total industry regained about 150 jobs during the recovery.

Northwest Oregon has recovered some timber industry jobs from the depths of the recession, but the region seems unlikely to regain all the jobs. Technological and market changes are working to reduce timber jobs across the state. Labor demand was about as strong as it could get in 2017, but logging jobs statewide remained about 2,500 below their pre-recession level. Employment in wood product manufacturing is even more depressed; it was down about 9,000 jobs statewide from its pre-recession level. Although these industries may not grow much, the region will have hundreds of job openings in the timber industry due to turnover and retirements. Northwest Oregon will continue to produce timber and timber workers for years to come.

 


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