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Productive Capacity of Forest Ecosystems

Some of the most productive forests in the world can be found in western Oregon, particularly in the northern part of the Coast Range. This sustainability criterion measures the area of forest land available for timber production, the amount of growing stock (volume of wood present), and the annual removal or harvest of both wood and non-wood products.

Demand for wood products is increasing. People are building bigger houses, and using more lumber to build them. It takes about 13,000 board feet of lumber to build an average house in the U.S. Oregon's forests provide some of that lumber.

In the past, as much as 9.8 billion board feet of timber was harvested in Oregon in a single year.

Oregon timber harvest graph
Map courtesy of Oregon Department of Forestry

Since the early 1990s the harvest level has greatly declined, mostly due to decreased harvesting in federal forests under the Northwest Forest Plan. The present harvest level (2002) is only about 3.92 billion board feet per year, most of which comes from industrial land and small woodlots.

Meanwhile, Oregon's forests keep growing. Estimates of sustainable levels of harvest range from 4.2 billion to 7.4 billion board feet per year. All of these estimates are well above the level currently being harvested, on both private and public lands. And the current harvest is far below the state’s maximum potential to produce wood on forestlands not Congressionally withdrawn for other uses, estimated at 9.25 billion board feet per year (2003 Forestry Program for Oregon). Most people would agree that Oregon's timber is being harvested at a sustainable level.

Non-wood products: We don't know the quantity of mushrooms, floral greenery, and other non-wood products that can be sustainably harvested, or even how much is actually being removed from our forests each year.