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Logging hits historic low.

Byline: Diane Dietz The Register-Guard

Oregon loggers cut only about as much wood last year as they did in 1934, according to the state Department of Forestry.

The harvest on state, federal and private lands was 2.7 billion board feet in 2009 - the lowest amount since the middle of the Great Depression, when loggers harvested 2.6 billion.

"I've got to admit I'm shocked," said Ed McMahon, executive vice president of the Lane County Home Builders Association. "As low as it's been since the early '80s would have made sense, but '34? Wow."

As demand for new houses declined since 2007, the need for timber fell. "Obviously going from 2.2 million houses down to 500,000 or 600,000 in a year, that's a huge reduction in demand," said Richard Re, general manager at Seneca Sawmill Co. north Eugene.

Bryce Ward, a senior economist at ECONorthwest consulting, said, "A huge part of the problem here was a housing boom and a housing bust. Other recessions have had housing booms and busts - this one was much bigger."

Lane County loggers cut 338 million board feet in 2009, compared with 317 million in 1935. The lowest cut on record in Lane County was 160 million board feet in 1932.

The most recent slide in the county began in 2006 with a 594 million board foot harvest, down to 504 million in 2007, to 432 million in 2008 and finally to 338 million last year.

This year, Lane County yielded the title of top cutting county to Douglas County, which saw a harvest of 384 million board feet.

"Lane and Douglas have always been in the lead, but they've changed places before," state timber economist Gary Lettman said.

It's unclear when demand for timber will resume, Butch Bernhardt, spokesman for the Western Wood Products Association, said. "There hasn't been any momentum. There have been developments that have happened that people are reading as indicators of recovery, but they tend to lose strength," he said.
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Title Annotation:Business; The bust in the housing market is blamed for an Oregon harvest comparable to 1934
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 21, 2010
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