Big log database helps woodland owners find log buyers

November 20, 2003

CORVALLIS - Faced with a changing forest products economy, Oregon's family forestland owners have struggled to get full market value for their harvested timber, particularly big saw logs that are 30 to 72 inches in diameter.

That search is easier now, thanks to the Oregon Log Buyer Database, also called the "big log" database.

"An online listing of more than 200 Pacific Northwest log and timber buyers, the log buyers database is designed to help private woodland owners find more marketing options for their harvested timber," said Eric Hansen, OSU Extension forest products marketing faculty.

Developed by Oregon State University Extension Service forestry faculty, the database is organized by county and offers information on the log requirements of each company listed, as well as contact information.

Now in its 11th month of operation, the database has been downloaded more than 6,000 times, said Scott Leavengood, OSU Extension forestry field faculty in Washington County and member of the database development team.

Earning timber dollars typically isn't a top priority for private woodland owners, but even so, they still contribute about 20 percent of the annual timber harvest in Oregon, Hansen noted.

"Private owners manage for a variety of goals such as improving wildlife habitat and water quality on their land or working to preserve their forest resources as much as possible because they just love the land and like to see bigger, older trees," Hansen explained.

Since end markets often aren't a major concern, saw logs marketed by private owners tend to come in a wide variety of sizes, many of them in the big log category.

Getting fair market value for big logs has become particularly difficult for a number of reasons.

According to Hansen, the Oregon timber industry is now largely geared toward processing small logs – about eight to 10 inches in diameter – that come from corporation-owned tree farms.

"The mills shifted their manufacturing strategy to streamline production," said Hansen. "They can process small logs more quickly and efficiently than larger logs. As a result, many Oregon saw mills won't accept large logs that the private owners are more likely to market."

Another factor hurting the market value of large logs is the dramatic decline in the number of timber mills in the Pacific Northwest over the past decade – a trend that has coincided with the gradual reduction in timber harvest on federal lands.

"Earlier in the 1990s, federal land was the main source of larger logs," Hansen said. "Now that supply isn't available anymore and those mills that handled big logs have gone out of business or re-tooled to handle smaller logs."

"Private woodland owners usually harvest very small numbers of trees at a time and they harvest timber infrequently," he said. "Unless they keep up with the constant changes taking place in timber markets, finding the best buyer is difficult. The database helps fill the gaps in their knowledge of the marketplace."

The database may be viewed at: http://www.cof.orst.edu/cof/extended/extserv/log.php

Author: Bob Rost
Source: Eric Hansen, Scott Leavengood