Western lumber output falls to historic low in 2009
August 15, 2011 | 3:39 pm CDT
PORTLAND, OR -- The western lumber industry in 2009 posted its worst year for production in modern history, according to final statistics compiled by Western Wood Products Association (WWPA).

The WWPA said sawmills in the 12 Western states produced 10.39 billion board feet of lumber in 2009, the lowest annual volume since it began compiling industry statistics in the late 1940s. Since 2005, output from western lumber mills has fallen by some 46%. The previous modern day low was in 1982, when 13.7 billion board feet of lumber was produced at western mills.

WWPA reported the final industry totals for 2009 following its annual survey of some 170 mills operating in the continental West.

The lack of home building in the U.S. contributed to the historic decline. Just 554,000 houses were built in 2009, a 39% decline from the previous year. It was the lowest annual total since 1945, when just 326,000 houses were built.

Low demand translated into even lower prices for Western lumber products. The estimated wholesale value of the 2009 production was $2.69 billion, down 26% from 2008. Five years ago, Western mills produced 19.3 billion board feet of lumber valued at $7.7 billion.

All Western states posted double-digit declines in production. Oregon sawmills produced 3.83 billion board feet of lumber to lead the nation. The total was down 19% from 2008.

Washington was the second highest producing state in the region and the nation with 3.24 billion board feet in 2009. Mills in California produced 1.44 billion board feet of lumber, down almost 25% from the previous year.

Read the Western Wood Products Association's press release.

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