Timber

The Claim

Oregon was once a mighty timber supplier, but those days are long gone.

The Reality

The heyday is over, but the state is still the number one lumber producer in the country.

Oregon is known for its trees, and rightfully so. Forests cover about half of the state, for a total of 30.5 million acres. That’s about how many acres of forest existed here thirty years ago, says Paul Barnum, executive director of the Oregon Forest Research Institute in Portland.

“It’s also estimated there’s as much wood growing in Oregon forests today as in the early 1950s, and that’s no accident,” he says. “The Oregon Forests Practices Act requires reforestation after harvest, plus the state has a unique system of land-use laws that have protected forests.”

All those trees have helped make Oregon the number one lumber producer in the United States, accounting for 18 percent of total U.S. softwood lumber production—not bad for an industry weathering a steep drop in housing starts. That said, most experts agree: Timber’s heyday, which peaked in the 1950s, will never return.

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