Tag Archives: Logging

How Oregon Rivers Carried Millions Of Trees Into Production

How Oregon Rivers Carried Millions Of Trees Into Production . News | OPB.

Around the same time famed photographer Carelton Watkins first captured the Columbia River Gorge with his traveling darkroom, on the south fork of the Coos River in southwest Oregon a large dam helped fuel Oregon’s burgeoning timber industry.

The Tioga Dam was the largest splash dam in the Northwest. It was the first of what would grow to become 230 splash dams throughout western Oregon.

Let’s start big picture. From 1849-1924, Oregon produced over 47 billion board feet of lumber production, most of it hauled out on rivers. For context, trucks carried about 4 billion board feet lumber out of the woods on forest roads in 2014.

The Tioga Dam on the South Coos River towered 52 feet high and 200 feet wide.

Stephen Dow Beckham

In the past, ax men would cut down the towering trees and guide them into flooded rivers, which were controlled by splash dams. When ready, the splash dams opened and the wood rushed down in log drives. Workers would use dynamite to carve out natural objects in the way and clear backed up trees.

The river could carried off around a million board feet of timber in a single drive.

Oregon’s years of log drives ended with the Tioga, as the last standing splash dam in Oregon. Under pressure from the state and landowners, it closed in 1957. Workers burned it down in a night.

Many of the rivers changed by the log drives have healed over the past 70 years. But there are some lingering challenges.

Oregon Field Guide explores this history and what means now for some rivers in Oregon

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Wood products find floor

Wood products find floor

Timber Industry Report

By Rick Sohn, PhD
Coquille LLC

A correction in wood products seems to have found a floor, interest rates are trending down, and real estate activity continues at a healthy pace, despite slower starts. Seven-year trend of lumber, logs, housing, and mortgage statistics are shown below.

chart-sohn-aug13

Interpretation
Last month falling lumber and log prices, and rising mortgage interest rates were highlighted. This month, a negative trend in Housing Starts and Building Permits continues and we are now back down to later 2012 levels.

Monthly average mortgage interest rates are still headed up, and July will report 4.37% rate. The most recent week does show a dip to 4.31%.

Wood products prices seem to have found a floor. Not only studs, but according to Random Lengths, Oriented Strand Board prices fell 41% in the second quarter, before finding a floor. This is the sharpest single quarter decline for OSB in the last 17 years, since these records have been kept.

Log prices have not fallen as far, so there is more squeeze on the wood products producers.

This is a year of serious forest fires in the Southern Oregon area. 35,000 acres have burned in Douglas County as of this report. This represents a mix of private industrial timberland and Bureau of Land Management lands, perhaps 10-15,000 acres of private industrial land. A lot of the industrial land is covered with reproduction forests that are not merchantable. These stands will represent a total loss.

To the minor extent that there is merch timber, rapid salvage can be expected from private lands. There is not likely enough merch timber to affect log prices, as substitution from planned logging by industrial producers will occur. The BLM lands, in contrast, are likely dominated by a forest of merchantable timber. Barring the effects of a recent court case supporting logging on BLM O&C lands, salvage logging, is not likely, even though it would be desirable for forest recovery and the economy.

In the meantime, home sales do not seem to have slowed much, and real estate sales statistics remain positive and improving. Unsold inventory in Portland, while up slightly, is still below 3.0%. And, the median US home value continues to increase.

According to Roseburg Prudential Agent Janet Johnston, agents are busy with lots of activity, despite the uptick in interest rates, which are still excellent for most people but might affect the ability of a few buyers to purchase. Some buyers will have to lower their expectations of what they can qualify for. Most activity is still in the $250,000 and under range, although there are now some pending sales in the $600-$800,000 range. Carol Johnson, a G.Stiles Realty agent in Roseburg is also reporting an increase in showings in the above-$600,000 price.

Data reports used with permission of:
1-Random Lengths. Through Sept. 2012, 2”x4”x8’ precision end trimmed hem-fir stud grade from Southern Oregon mills. Starting Oct. 2012, consolidated with Kiln Dried Studs, Coast Hem-Fir 2x4x8’ PET #2/#2&Btr. Price reported is Dollars per Thousand Board Feet, generally the third week of the month. One “board foot” of product measures 12 inches by 12 inches by one inch thick.
2–RISI, Log Lines. Douglas-fir #2 Sawmill Log, Average Region 3 Southern Oregon price, reported in Dollars per Thousand Board Feet of logs, Scribner Scale. The standardized Scribner Scale includes expected saw trim waste, so a log board foot is much more wood volume than a product board foot.
3– Dept. of Commerce, US Census Bureau. New Residential Housing Starts and New Residential Construction Permits, seasonally adjusted, annual rate. Recent reports are often revised in bold. Also, major revision made each May, reaching 2 1/2 yrs back.
4–Regional Multiple Listing Service RMLSTM data, courtesy of Janet Johnston, Prudential Real Estate Professionals Broker, Roseburg, OR. Inventory of Unsold Homes (Ratio of Active Listings to Closed Sales) in Portland, Oregon, for most recent month available.
5–Freddie Mac. Primary Mortgage Market Survey. 30-year Fixed Rate Mortgages Since 1971, national averages. Updated weekly, current report is for the prior full month.
6–Mortgage-X Most recent weekly rate of 30-year Fixed Rate Mortgages, national average.
7–Zillow.com Median value of homes sold in the United States during the month, weighted according to each area population. The Median removes the effect of outlier expensive homes, with equal numbers of homes above and below the median value each month. Revisions in bold
Issue #6-7. © Copyright Rick Sohn, Umpqua Coquille LLC.

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New records for lumber, logs, housing starts

New records for lumber, logs, housing starts

February 4, 2013

By Rick Sohn, PhD
Umpqua Coqullie LLC

New records for lumber, logs, housing starts, building permits, and unsold inventory, while mortgage rates remain low.  Consistent annual improvement  is expected.  Five-year data of lumber, logs, housing, and mortgage statistics are shown below.

  Prices in Dollars per Thousand Board Feet

Jan‘13 Dec’12 Nov‘12 Oct‘12 Dec‘11 Dec ’10 Dec ‘08
Southern Oregon Studs1 $335 $318 $ 300 $273 $220 $235  $140
Southern Oregon Logs2 Not avail. $607 $ 588 $570 $549 $533  $434

Thousands of  Housing Units

US Private Housing Starts3 954 851 889 697 539 560
US Private Building Permits3 903 900 868 701 632 654

Months of  Inventory of Unsold Homes

 Portland OR Unsold Home inventory4 3.6  4.2    3.8 5.3 7.9 14.1

Percentage interest rate

30-year Fixed Rate Mortgage5 6  3.42  3.35    3.35    3.38 3.96 4.71 5.29

 

Interpretation

Supply and demand are so much a part of the wood products industry prices.  Both housing starts and building permits posted new highs, over 900, and the highest since 2008.  Production capacity at the mills and in the woods remain constrained, pushing prices higher.  Stud prices at $335 are at a 7-year high, while log prices at $607are at a 6-year high.

Logging companies do not have the cable yarding capacity they had 6 years ago, and the wet season constrains logging to gravel road systems, which decreases runoff of mud into streams.  This year, many companies do not have as many logging units prepared for winter work, which also pushes logging prices higher.

The Financial Times reports a surge in March lumber futures to a high of $380 in mid-January, with a high near $400 in late December, while currently over $350.   The futures prices surged nearly 45% in 2012, as demand rose.  The lumber and timber supply constraints discussed above, along with demand from China, and the Canadian pine beetle epidemic, have all contribute to the increased prices, according to theTimes.  Paul Jannke of Forest Economic Advisors in an interview with the Times, forecasts a 10-15% increase per year “for the next 3 years at least.”  Industry predictions are for a 20% rise in homebuilding in 2013, over 2012.

The healthy log and product prices will be short-lived if woods capacity increases and mills jump into more production by adding shifts, in excess of the increase in demand.  Temporarily, logging capacity will limit the growth.  Fortunately for the business, producers are reticent to increase production at the still-anemic levels of housing starts and building permits, compared to the historic levels, where normally housing is above 1.5 million starts and permits.  This allows companies to recapture some of the losses of the last 5 years and become healthier.

Data reports used with permission of:

1Random Lengths.  Through Sept. 2012, 2”x4”x8’ precision end trimmed hem-fir stud grade from Southern Oregon mills.  Starting Oct. 2012 the stud grade was consolidated with and is now reported as  Kiln Dried Studs, Coast Hem-Fir 2x4x8’ PET #2/#2&Btr. Price reported is Dollars per Thousand Board Feet, generally the third week of the month.  One “board foot” of product measures 12 inches by 12 inches by one inch thick.

2RISI, Log Lines.   Douglas-fir #2 Sawmill Log Average Region 5 price.  Current report is for the prior month.  Dollars per Thousand Board Feet of logs are reported using standardized log measurements from the “Scribner log table,” which includes expected saw trim.  This is much larger than a product board foot.

3 Dept. of Commerce, US Census Bureau.   New Residential Housing Starts and New Residential Construction Permits, seasonally adjusted, annual rate.  Current report is for the prior month.   Recent reports are often revised in bold.  Also, major revision made each May, reaching 2 1/2  yrs back.

4Regional Multiple Listing Service RMLSTM  data, courtesy of Janet Johnston, Prudential Real Estate Professionals  Broker, Roseburg, OR.  Inventory of Unsold Homes (Ratio of Active Listings to Closed Sales) in Portland Oregon, for most recent month available.

5Freddie Mac.  Primary Mortgage Market Survey.  30-year Fixed Rate Mortgages Since 1971, national averages.  Updated weekly, current report is for the prior full month.

6Mortgage-X Most recent weekly rate of 30-year Fixed Rate Mortgages, national average.

Issue  #6-1. © Copyright Rick Sohn, Umpqua Coquille LLC.   For permission to reprint, e-mail rsohn@umpquacoquille.com

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Governor wants to help Ore. timber industry by sharing wildfire costs with industry, state

Governor wants to help Ore. timber industry by sharing wildfire costs with industry, state

By JEFF BARNARD  AP Environmental Writer

January 19, 2013

GRANTS PASS, Oregon — For years, Oregon’s major timberland owners have felt they were paying too much of the cost of fighting wildfires, especially in years when blazes stayed relatively small.

A bill in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s budget would allocate $3.6 million over the next two years to change the payment formula, so the state picks up a bigger share of the costs in years when fires don’t rage out of control. The proposal also would pay up to $6 million to keep two air tankers on call and other resources to keep minor wildfires from getting big and expensive.

“Landowners since 1993 have paid 82 percent of the cost” of putting out large fires, said Kristin McNitt, executive director of the Oregon Forest Industry Council, which represents the timber industry. “And it’s killing us.”

The governor also wants to use $4 million in lottery-backed bonds to help the U.S. Forest Service turn out more timber sales from federal lands in the dry forests east of the Cascades.

Natural Resources adviser Richard Whitman said the governor sees the two proposals as vital to maintaining the struggling timber industry in central and eastern Oregon, both as a source of jobs and as a necessary part of the infrastructure for logging that will improve forest health and reduce wildfire danger.

The region almost lost one of the half-dozen surviving mills last year, for lack of timber from national forests, Whitman said.

“If there is any further decline, it will be very hard to get back,” he said.

A wildfire policy watchdog group, however, sees the funding change as a “scam” on taxpayers that benefits the timber industry — but not the public.

Andy Stahl, director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics said any money spent on air tankers and helicopters is a waste, because there is no data to show that they are effective tools for keeping fires from getting out of control.

“At a time when we are struggling to fund schools and fund health care, why we would want to divert those dollars to some of Oregon’s largest corporations is a bit mystifying,” said Stahl. “Historic data shows no correlation between the amount of retardant dumped on a (forest) and the success rate of keeping fires small.”

The timber industry has been trying for years to change the wildfire funding formula, and last year the state Board of Forestry appointed a committee representing forest landowners, government agencies and the governor’s office, which came up with the Wildfire Protection Act.

Under the current funding formula, private landowners, whether large timber companies or homeowners with a few acres of trees, pay a tax to cover the costs of the Oregon Department of Forestry’s firefighting efforts. The tax ranges from 80 cents per acre on the wetter west side of the state, to $1.70 on the drier east side.

The first $10 million of the cost of fighting large fires is covered by private landowners. The next $15 million comes from the state general fund. After that, a special insurance policy kicks in $25 million up to a total of $50 million. In recent years, the cost of fighting large fires has averaged $8 million, so landowners have covered it alone.

The bill calls for sharing the costs evenly from the start, up to a total of $20 million. The amount the state pays would increase gradually over six years, so that at the end the cost would be split 50-50, up to $20 million. Despite the lower deductible, the cost of the insurance policy would remain at $1 million, due to increased firefighting resources, said Travis Medema, deputy chief of fire protection for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The idea behind the state taking a greater share is that the public benefits from keeping forests green, so they provide recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and clean water, said Whitman, of the Natural Resources Department.

As for the bottleneck in turning out more timber from national forests in eastern and central Oregon, Whitman said the problem has been a lack of funding for the Forest Service.

Sales developed collaboratively by groups that include representatives of the timber industry and conservation groups typically are not held up by court challenge. The $4 million would go to planning and laying out timber sales.

“We put money into economic development projects all the time,” Whitman said. “In terms of bang for the buck for job creation” and helping mills and logging outfits stay in business, “it looks like a pretty good investment.”

The state is still in negotiations with the Forest Service, but wants to receive payment from the sale of timber in return for the investment in preparing sales, Whitman said.

Stahl said a similar arrangement had been worked out in Arizona to promote thinning to reduce fire danger. He said it was ironic for the state to pay the federal government to log, when federal payments to timber counties to make up for reduced logging revenues have expired.

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Timber Industry Reviewing New Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat

Timber Industry Reviewing New Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat

November 27, 2012

The American Forest Resource Council is reviewing the critical habitat designation for the northern spotted owl released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hoping that substantial changes have been made since the draft was published in the Federal Register last March. Over the past two years, the proposal and the process employed in its development have been criticized by Members of Congress and the public. County governments in Washington, Oregon and California have raised a number of concerns about its likely economic impact.

In comments filed July 6, AFRC noted the proposed habitat designation would include large amounts of acreage not suitable for the bird. This resulted from the use of complex, flawed computer models not verified with on-the-ground review. AFRC had provided the Service with extensive scientific documentation that the models are not accurate or precise enough to truly identify those areas that are critical to the owl or comply with the Endangered Species Act.

“We hope the Service has used the information we provided to make significant revisions to its draft proposal,” said Tom Partin, AFRC President. “The draft proposed a 265% increase in critical habitat over what was designated after the owl was listed in 1990. Tying up massive swaths of federal forests that aren’t really owl habitat will not benefit the owl or help us address the declining health of these forests.”

“Unfortunately, habitat is not the limiting factor for the spotted owl,” Partin said. “It is being out competed and killed off by the barred owl. Barred owl control may be the only answer, but thus far the Service has done little to show whether this is a practical option. Instead, it has devoted its time to massive critical habitat designations that provide no actual benefit to the owl.”

AFRC also expressed concern that the economic impact of the designation was not properly assessed.

“The government’s economic analysis did not even come out until almost three months after the habitat proposal. And once it did, it was totally inadequate to assess the impact on local communities in Washington, Oregon and California. It totally glossed over how single species management is ruining our forests and our rural communities,” Partin said.

“We certainly hope the Service has heeded our comments and brought this designation in line with reality and the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. As such, our review will focus on whether the Service has removed all acres that were not occupied at the time the bird was listed in 1990 and those not essential to the conservation of the species,” Partin concluded.

The American Forest Resource Council represents forest product manufacturers and landowners throughout the west and is based in Portland, Oregon. www.amforest.org

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Read of the Day: Idaho sawmill hopes new technology ups efficiency

Idaho sawmill hopes new technology ups efficiency

BILL ROBERTS, The Idaho Statesman
Friday, November 9, 2012
  • Alan Dehlin obtains information from computerized equipment to help guide the cutting of logs at Evergreen Forest Products’ mill southwest of New Meadows, Idaho on Oct. 23, 2012.  At Evergreen Forest Products, new scanners will read rough-cut timber, showing mill workers how to get around impurities such as knots. The devices will help produce the highest-grade cuts that will bring Evergreen the most money.   LOCAL TV OUT (KTVB 7) Photo: The Idaho Statesman, Chris Butler / AP
    Alan Dehlin obtains information from computerized equipment to help guide the cutting of logs at Evergreen Forest Products’ mill southwest of New Meadows, Idaho on Oct. 23, 2012. At Evergreen Forest Products, new scanners will read rough-cut timber, showing mill workers how to get around impurities such as knots. The devices will help produce the highest-grade cuts that will bring Evergreen the most money. LOCAL TV OUT (KTVB 7) Photo: The Idaho Statesman, Chris Butler / AP

NEW MEADOWS, Idaho (AP) — With the gradual turnaround in the housing market, a family-run lumber company in Adams County is about to put down $1.5 million on high-tech equipment to get more out of its logs.

At Evergreen Forest Products, new scanners will read rough-cut timber, showing mill workers how to get around impurities such as knots. The devices will help produce the highest-grade cuts that will bring Evergreen the most money.

And Rodney Krogh, Evergreen’s president, won’t have to wait long for a financial return. “The payback will be within a year on grade alone,” he said.

Scanners and other automated equipment have become practically a necessity in Idaho sawmills like Evergreen’s, which cut soft woods such as Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. In a shrinking field of sawmills — some didn’t survive the recession — competition demands getting the most financial return from each log.

“(It) means mills have to purchase fewer logs,” said Steve Shook, a University of Idaho marketing professor who specializes in the wood-products industry.

Adding new equipment isn’t always easy. Mills have struggled with trying to marry high-tech equipment with old machinery, Shook said. And finding financing can be difficult.

Krogh says Evergreen will install its scanner early next year. Today, workers eyeball the wood to grade it for specific types of cuts. They lift a board to figure out whether it would make a 2-by-8 or a more profitable 2-by-6, for example.

Even the best eyes can’t see what the scanner sees, Krogh said.

New manufacturing technology often means hiring fewer workers, in lumber mills and other industries. But Krogh says he won’t lay anyone off.

“I won’t lose the guy,” Krogh said. “He won’t be lifting these big boards all day long.”

___

Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Idaho-sawmill-hopes-new-technology-ups-efficiency-4024239.php#ixzz2BqwfCLMm

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Alaska Timber Task Force Releases Report

Alaska Timber Task Force Releases Report

By Office of Governor Parnell
October 16, 2012, Juneau, Alaska – The Alaska Timber Task Force today released its report to Governor Sean Parnell recommending steps to improve economic conditions in Alaska’s forest-dependent communities.

Created by Administrative Order 258, the nine-member Alaska Timber Jobs Task Force reviewed issues affecting Alaska’s timber industry. Largely due to declining timber volume offered for sale by the U.S. Forest Service, the Southeast Alaska timber industry has nearly collapsed.

“Inadequate federal timber sales and reckless lawsuits by environmental groups bent on stopping all logging, and wiping out Alaska jobs along the way, are unacceptable,” Governor Parnell said. “This report provides clear and reasonable steps that can assist communities, schools, small businesses, and families in Southeast Alaska.”

Key recommendations include placing up to 2 million acres of federal land in a trust managed by the state, and seeking federal legislation granting states the option of running timber sale programs on federal lands. A state-run program would operate under state forestry standards and state laws.

The report looked at the state of the timber industry throughout Alaska. The industry is small but growing in the Interior and Southcentral Alaska, largely due to a dependable supply from state-managed timberland, according to the report. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources and businesses are working together as woody biomass becomes a cost-effective heating and energy option in rural Alaska.

In Southeast Alaska, however, the downward spiral of lost jobs and closed schools has continued. Despite federal law requiring enough timber sales to meet demand, the Forest Service choked off the timber supply; two of the last three mid-sized mills have closed.

In the past decade, Southeast Alaska timber jobs declined from 1,500 to roughly 200, the region’s population dropped 12 percent, and six schools closed.

The task force provided 34 recommendations to the governor addressing short-, mid- and long-term needs to stabilize and grow the timber industry.
Expanding existing state forests and establishing new state forests. These recommendations include:

  • Revising state statutes and regulations to address the needs of small timber operators
  • Seeking state management of federal timber acreage in Southeast Alaska, or improved federal policies to meet timber supply demand
  • Seeking a 250,000-acre state-federal land exchange, with dispersal of the newly acquired lands to Southeast communities for local economic use
  • Pressing the federal government to advertise additional timber sales and exempt Alaska national forests from the 2001 Roadless Rule

The task force members include representatives from state agencies, the Governor’s Office, the U.S. Forest Service, the timber industry, and Southeast Alaska communities. The U.S. Forest Service representative was a non-voting member of the task force.

The Timber Report can be read here.

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