Timber Harvests in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

September 28, 2021

Timber harvests fell for the second year in 2019 in Northwest Oregon. The 2019 harvest fell by 11% from 2018 and was down 15% from 2017. The total harvest in 2019 was about 9% below the average of the previous 10 years. Employment in the timber industry decreased a bit in 2019 and was about 20 jobs below the average employment of the previous 10 years.

Benton County

Timber harvests fell 13% in 2019 to 109,502,000 board feet, the lowest level since 2014. 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% is forested.
Employment in the county’s logging, forestry, and lumber and wood product manufacturing industry dropped by 21 in 2019 to 441. Despite having smaller harvests, Benton County is in the middle of the pack in the region for timber-related jobs. 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 1,050 jobs in 1996. The county remained home to 10 wood product mills and 27 forestry and logging businesses.

Clatsop County

The timber harvest was down 17% in Clatsop County in 2019. The harvest in 2019 was 215,784,000 board feet, which was the lowest since 1998. This also was 20% below the average of the previous 10 years. Clatsop County is 827 square miles, putting it squarely in the middle of the pack by size of Northwest Oregon counties. About 85% of the county is forest land, and it includes most of Clatsop State Forest.
Logging, forestry, and lumber and wood product manufacturing employment in Clatsop County fell slightly with the loss of 15 jobs. Employment was about about 6% jobs below its average of the past 10 years. Somewhat smaller harvests in the 1990s supported more than 500 jobs.

There were four wood product mills in the county in 2019 and 16 forestry and logging firms.

Columbia County

The timber harvest in Columbia County dropped by 9% in 2019. The total harvest was 149,145,000 board feet. It was the worst year since 2011, and 8% below the average of the previous 10 years. During much of the 1980s and 1990s 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% of the county is zoned as forest land.
Employment in logging, forestry, and lumber and wood product manufacturing slid by 11 in 2019 to 457. Employment in logging and lumber and wood product manufacturing is up by more than 100 jobs from the depths of the recession and was 9% higher than the average of the previous 10 years. Unfortunately this is only a little more than half its level of the early 2000s.

In 2019 there were six lumber mills and 28 forestry and logging businesses in the county.

Lincoln County

The timber harvest fell 17% in Lincoln County in 2019. The harvest was 155,354,000 board feet. The 2019 harvest was the lowest since 2010 when the county was mired in the Great Recession. Lincoln County is the second largest in northwest Oregon at 980 square miles. About 90% of the county is forest lands.
Employment in the logging, forestry, and lumber and wood product manufacturing industry was essentially unchanged in 2019 – down eight jobs from 2018, and was just a handful of jobs below its level before the Great Recession. There were 14 logging and forestry businesses in the county. Wood product manufacturing is a confidential industry in Lincoln County.

Tillamook County

The timber harvest in Tillamook County rose about 1% in 2019. The total harvest was 197,902,000 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% of the county is zoned as forest land. The county is also home to the Tillamook State Forest.

Employment in logging, forestry, and lumber and wood product manufacturing fell by 23 jobs in Tillamook County in 2019 to 554 jobs. The county shed about 240 jobs from the industry during the Great 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 2019. The logging portion of the industry remained relatively stable during the recession and recovery. The total industry regained about 150 jobs during the recovery, but employment slowly declined from 2015 through 2019.

Northwest Oregon has recovered some timber industry jobs from the depths of the Great 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 2019. Logging employment fell sharply during the pandemic recession and has rebounded, but not completely back to pre-pandemic levels. The story is similar with wood product manufacturing.

Although these industries may not grow much in the future, 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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