Bringing the Economy Home

California, Like Idaho, Benefits From Timber Exports

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Demand from overseas helped sustain small and rural timber towns as new home construction foundered.

Last week StateImpact told the story of Idaho Forest Group’s Laclede mill, which experienced its first shutdown in decades when the housing bubble burst, decimating lumber demand.  The mill reopened thanks in large part to the company’s new focus on the export market.

The Wall Street Journal this week reports that the export market is helping to spur a similar turnaround in California timber towns, where timber revenues are on the rise.

“The revival comes as California timber harvests and revenue rise for the third straight year, according to state data and timber companies. Timber harvests are up by 20% or more—and revenue is growing by a substantially higher margin—since a post-housing-bust slump sent harvests to a record low in 2009.

The trend is part of a West Coast logging rebound driven by log- and milled-lumber exports that also are providing a boost for Washington and Oregon.” — The Wall Street Journal

In the North Idaho town of Laclede, mill quality control manager Steve Spletstoser says exports to Japan have meant the difference between a lumberyard crowded by pallets of unsold lumber, and a lumberyard that has steady, predictable demand.

“There’s a consistent volume that we need to cut, each month,” he says.  “We cut it, we package it, we put it on a truck, and it’s gone, every month.”


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