On a sunny day in May 2010, the Koombana Bay, a large blue and red bulk log ship, slipped into Port Angeles’ newly re-opened log export facilities. The arrival brought cheers from a local crowd followed by optimistic speeches and newspaper headlines.
It was the first log vessel seen in the Port of Port Angeles since 2007.
The log ship’s arrival signaled the life line tossed to Washington’s wood products industry by the rapid expansion of export demand for West Coast logs. The new demand has revitalized log shipping at several Washington State ports while keeping log and wood product producers afloat during a deep recession and prolonged economic slump. Home construction in the United States — a major buyer of Washington State softwoods — has been hit especially hard.
Yet, in 2010 Washington ports exported 1.1 billion board feet of logs, the highest export log volume since 1996. In the past four years, log exports have doubled. According to editions of the Washington Mill Survey, the state exported 541 million board feet in 2008 and 661 million in 2006.
On a broader scale Washington exported $1.3 billion worth of all forest products (logs, furniture, etc.) in 2010 with $411 million going to China, according to wisertrade.org.
Seattle Times’ columnist Jon Talton recently explained the impact that China’s demand for logs has had Washington’s timber and forest products industry.
Although unprocessed timber, such as raw logs, from Washington State trust lands cannot be exported by law, higher foreign demand for raw logs from private lands is leading to supply shortages for area sawmills. To find high quality, market-price timber these mills turn to the remaining domestic sources, which include timber grown on state trust lands. DNR auctions timber and other natural resources to raise money for public school and university construction, county services and other state trust land beneficiaries.
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