Washington timber industry takes center stage

2013-11-24 Ashley Bach

The timber industry in Washington is a real newsmaker. The Longview Daily News reported earlier this month about Weyerhaeuser embarking on a local hiring boom, with timber leaders optimistic about the future.

Nationwide housing starts are expected to hit 900,000 this year, nearly triple the 2008 low point during the recession, said Cindy Mitchell of the Washington Forest Protection Association, a timber industry trade group, said during the meeting.

About 3.2 billion board feet of timber is expected to be harvested from Washington forests this year, a 30 percent jump from five years ago.

Mitchell said the increase is due to increased demand, which made Weyerhaeuser officials cheer.

“The industry is improving. It’s a pretty optimistic outlook for the lumber industry,” said Fred Kuhn, manager of Weyerhaeuser’s Longview sawmill.

Billy Frank, Jr., a longtime Native American leader and chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, wrote in a recent column about how the state's timber industry in the mid-1980s took an innovative approach to improving the state's environmental laws.

Timber companies, environmental groups, tribes, state and federal agencies, and others were battling each other in court over the effects of timber harvests on fish and wildlife. I asked Stu Bledsoe, executive director of the Washington Forest Protection Association, a forest products industry trade group, to see if his members would be willing to join a cooperative effort to develop a solution for everyone involved.

He agreed to try. After many months of negotiations by all of the parties involved, the result was the Timber/Fish/Wildlife Agreement – now called the Forests and Fish Law – which put an end to the war in the woods with a cooperative science-based management approach that ensures a healthy timber industry while also protecting fish and wildlife.

Forestry was also a big part of this story from Seattle's KIRO Radio about Washington's largest industries.

Timber is one of Washington's legacy industries and it's still going strong with $17 billion in gross revenues and about 140,000 jobs, direct and indirect.

"The timber industry is the third largest manufacturing sector in the state, transportation or Boeing being number one and petroleum number two, in terms of gross revenues" said Cindy Mitchell with the 105-year-old Washington Forest Protection Association. "So it is a big player across the state."

...Innovation is sustaining the timber industry, which claims 5,000 different products from forest materials, including resins, glues, fuel, cosmetics and food.

Mitchell said advances in laminated lumber beams and engineered wood that is stronger and more resistant to fire is allowing construction of tall buildings, known as "woodscrapers."

And lastly, the WFPA 105th Annual Meeting on Nov. 14 brought together 120 timber professionals and public officials from around the state. Frank, Jr. was among the state leaders who were honored by WFPA (see a full rundown of the meeting here), and AgInfo covered Ken and Bonnie Miller receiving the Tree Farmer of the Year award.

TVW was also on hand to record the compelling discussions about wood building, forestry education and state politics. Use the links below to see each video.

  • Joseph Mayo, Seattle architect and featured speaker, on the rise of wood building
  • Peter Goldmark, state Commissioner for Public Lands, on the health of the state's forests; and opening remarks by WFPA President Norm Schaaf and WFPA Executive Director Mark Doumit
  • Thomas DeLuca, Director of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at University of Washington, on forestry education
  • Panel discussion on "A New Direction in Washington" with Maia Bellon (Director, state Department of Ecology), Carol Nelson (Director, Department of Revenue), and Joel Sacks (Director, Department of Labor & Industries)
  • Panel discussion on upcoming legislative issues with Sens. Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe) and Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) and Reps. Kathy Haigh (D-Shelton) and J.T. Wilcox (R-Yelm)