The destruction left in the path of last year’s Oregon fire season is slowly coming into focus. Last September more than a million acres burned, destroying many homes and in some place entire communities across much of western Oregon. Weyerhaeuser timberlands were impacted by several of the fires, including approximately 125,000 acres that need to be replanted.
In a keynote address on Thursday (4-8-21) at the virtual Council of Forest Industries (COFI) conference, British Columbia’s Premier John Horgan addressed the ongoing timber shortage in the province. “There is too little fiber, and we need to do something about that,” Horgan said.
Family forest owners in Oregon are required by law to replant their forestlands within two years of a wildfire. Like the wildfires which burned through a large portion of Oregon’s forests this past Labor Day, which included the loss of an estimated 63,000 acres of family forests. The dilemma for the smaller and private forest owners is that seedlings are extremely hard to find.
The British Columbia government has been in dialogue with stakeholders over four possible scenarios for the Lake Timber Supply Area (TSA) apportionment. The Annual Allowable Cut (ACC) of timber for the Burns Lake region was reduced by -41% in 2019, from the previous ACC; however, at that point, the apportionment of AAC between timber license holders was not yet made.
A proposed sweeping plan of “treatment” to remove trees burned and killed along roads within the scars of Beachie Creek, Lionshead, and Holiday Farm fire has been proposed by the U.S. Forest Service. There are roughly 550 miles of road within the trio of fires and about 390 are proposed for “treatment” — meaning the cutting dead trees that might fall onto the road in the future.
Washington state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently held a timber auction to sell off part of a 180-acre patch of state forestland where some of the state’s largest Douglas firs have stood through more than a hundred years of logging. The sale netted the state $4.2 million, and the trees were headed for a plywood mill.
There are 18 counties in Oregon that get a share of timber revenue off Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land known as O & C lands. Those lands are named after the Oregon and California Railroad, which was granted land by the federal government in the 1800s as an incentive to build railroad lines. The federal government later took the land back.
As a result of last year’s wildfires, small landowners in Oregon find themselves in a predicament. Oregon law requires replanting after harvesting trees for timber, but there now is a surge in demand for a product that takes two years to grow. Seedlings that will be ready this year already are sold, and those planted because of new demand will take time to grow.
Weyerhaeuser continues to concentrate all of its logging resources into fire salvage. As an example, the Weyerhaeuser Santiam Lumber Mill is busily producing lumber from logs salvaged from the wildfires last summer — the Holiday Farm Fire that burned along the McKenzie River and into the Mohawk and upper Calapooia areas, and the Santiam Canyon fires, which damaged timber in the Snow Peak area.
According to LSU AgCenter’s forestry experts, the Louisiana’s forestry industries losses from hurricanes last year — $1.5 billion — was double the amount of the revenue the industry generates yearly.