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:: Home > The People > Timber & Lumber Imports

"According to Western Wood Products Association's 2003 lumber forecast, U.S. lumber consumption should reach an all-time high of 54.7 billion board feet in 2003, eclipsing the previous mark of 54.3 billion board feet set in 1999. Demand in 2002 is expected to match the 54.3 billion board foot mark."

— Western Wood Products Association
(WWPA) press release, October 2002.

Where does America get its lumber and timber that it processes in its mills? Increasingly, other countries supply the resources to satisfy our national demand.

Take 2003 for example. Lumber imports are forecast to rise more than 500 million board feet. WWPA predicts Canadian shipments will grow 1.6 percent to 18.7 billion board feet. Non-Canadian imports are expected to be up 15.3 percent to 2 billion board feet, led by European lumber volumes topping 1 billion board feet for the first time ever.

Softwood log imports are less significant than actual lumber imports. "Softwood" refers to logs produced from cone-bearing trees, or "conifers"— trees like the pines, Douglas-fir, and hemlock, which make up the bulk of the commercial timber harvested in Oregon. Major sources of these logs includes Canada (over 90 percent), New Zealand, and Brazil.

Oregon mills import wood, too. Mills may have a higher production rate than can be satisfied year-by-year by the current harvest from Oregon forests. Also, sometimes consumers demand products made from from non-native wood— local facilities can be part of that market, too.

Houses. Although we all need housing, we also have a choice about the type of housing we demand. Because housing is the leading per capita consumption of wood products (in the form of lumber, plywood, and exterior siding), the type and size of house we choose to buy helps define consumption habits.

According to Mike Dombeck, former chief of the U.S. Forest Service, from 1971 to 1996 the average size of homes in the United States grew from 1,520 square feet to 2,120 square feet. Meanwhile, the average family size has dropped by 16 percent. "Americans require more wood for larger homes than ever before, often in our rapidly diminishing open spaces." New-home construction will consume 21.2 billion board feet in 2003 (WWPA).

Wood continues to be an amazingly efficient, renewable resource, that can satisfy consumer demand... as long as we have reasonable demands.