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Timber Harvests Fall In Lincoln County

By Erik Knoder

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.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.

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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