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Private ground timber harvest came in nine percent lower than 2014

Forest lands in Idaho County

Credit: Free Press archive
Forest lands in Idaho County

About five percent less timber was harvested in Idaho last year than in 2014 – an amount still about 40 percent more than was harvested during the recession-driven low of 2009. That’s according to the 2016 Idaho Forest Products Industry current conditions and forecast report, which noted the harvest from private ground came in nine percent lower than 2014. Since the mid-1990s, private land has been the leading source of timber in Idaho; the decrease seen last year was only partly offset by increases of five percent from state land and one percent from federal land.

“Since the mid-1990s, Idaho’s forest products industry has been sustained primarily by timber harvests from private and state lands,” the report noted. “During 2015, private lands provided 62 percent of Idaho’s timber harvest volume, while state lands provided 27 percent. About 11 percent of the timber harvest volume came from U.S. National Forest System lands.”

The University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources produces the report every year, and estimated the statewide 2015 timber harvest at 1.05 billion board feet.

That translates to just shy of 12,000 jobs – about the same as in 2014 – but with fewer forestry and logging jobs and more firefighting jobs. Worker earnings averaged $56,600 per job in the forest products industry, about 39 percent more than the statewide average of $40,600 for all jobs.

The report also noted the “consensus view” of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia is that the U.S. economy will “grow modestly in 2016. Real GDP is forecast to grow 2.6 percent in 2016 compared to 2.4 percent in 2015.”

But whether that translates to more housing starts figures to be the main factor for Idaho’s lumber producers. Per the report: “Since 1994, more than 90 percent of the variance in the level of Idaho lumber production can be explained by U.S. housing starts.”

Imports from Canada could squeeze American producers, as the Softwood Lumber Agreement between the countries expired in October 2015, creating “uncertainty for at least the next year about Canadian mills selling into the already over-supplied U.S. market.”

Since October, the market has been subject to free trade – “no tariffs, no thresholds and no restrictions…between the countries.” That’s according to the Canadian CBCNEWS website, which on March 6 reported: “If there’s a deal, it will be a more restrictive deal than the last one and it won’t be good news for Canada.”


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