Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Western Oregon BLM Federal Public Forestlands:

Log Exports: The Timber Supply Issue That Dare Not Speak Its Name

It is understandable that Westside Oregon lumber mills are agitating to increase logging levels off of federal public forestlands. As federal logs cannot be exported, the local mills don't have to compete for them with mills in Shanghai or Tokyo. In 2010 (the last year of complete published data), the value of the federal log export ban to local mills was $365 per thousand board feet. In other words, if federal logs could have been exported, they would have fetched that much more at the export dock than at the log yard of a local mill (and if the permanent federal timber revenue-sharing formulas were in effect, it would have been quite a windfall for timber-addicted counties). Some Oregon mills are unable to complete with Chinese and Japanese mills for Oregon logs so they seeking to increasing logging levels for logs that cannot be exported.

In 2010, more than twice as much raw (unprocessed) logs were exported than came from federal public forestlands in Oregon and Washington. In 2011 and 2012, raw logs export numbers went up and down, but more up than down. In 2011, log exports increased 42% from 2010.

The Larch Company’s 2010 Log Export Index

Total timber cut (all owners) in Oregon and Washington (billion board feet): 5.9

Raw (unprocessed) logs exported from Oregon and Washington (billion board feet): 1.1

Percentage of raw (unprocessed) logs exported from Oregon and Washington: 19

Total timber cut on federal public lands in Oregon and Washington (billion board feet): 0.5

Percentage of Oregon and Washington log supply that came from federal public lands: 8

Here is a Larch Occasional Paper, entitle Oregon and Washington Raw Log Exports: Exporting Jobs and a Subsidy to Domestic Mills. Here is the abstract:

Exports of raw (unprocessed) logs from Oregon and Washington are on the rise again due to increased demand from East Asia. The increase in exports has both economic and environmental consequences. Domestic wood processing facilities benefit from a general ban on exporting logs from federal and state public lands. As overseas mills outcompete domestic mills for logs from private timberlands, domestic mill owners exert political pressure on Congress and the administration to increase logging on federal public lands. Public lands are more important for biological diversity, watershed conservation, carbon sequestration, and recreation and other values than for logging. In 2010, 19 percent of all timber cut in Oregon and Washington was exported as raw logs rather than finished lumber. For perspective, only 8 percent of all timber cut in the two states came from federal public lands.