USFS FY 2021 Harvest: 2.844 BBF

According to the American Forest Resource Council’s November 2021 newsletter, “the Forest Service’s timber sale outputs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, which were 2.844 billion board feet (BBF). This is a reduction of more than 11 percent, or 370 million board feet (mmbf), from the previous fiscal year. About 20 percent of the FY 2021 timber sale accomplishment was comprised of firewood permits, biomass, and other convertible materials, so the volume of sawtimber sold was closer to 2.3 BBF from the 188 million acres of National Forest System lands. The Forest Service has cited COVID and the massive 2020 wildfire season as key contributors to the decline. For a comparison, the Washington Department of Natural Resources annually sells about 550 MMBF – nearly 25% of the Forest Service’s national timber sale volume from just 2.5 million acres of state forest trust lands.”

17 thoughts on “USFS FY 2021 Harvest: 2.844 BBF”

  1. For comparison, and perspective, a typical log truck holds about 5,000 board feet.

    This means that the 2.3 BBF of sawtimber cut on America’s National Forests would require 460,000 log trucks to haul all those trees out of the forests.

    What do 460,000 log trucks look like?

    Assuming a typical log truck is about 60 feet in total length, the amount of sawtimber cut from America’s National Forests in just FY 2021 would be lined up end-to-end for over 5,200 miles.

    What does that look like?

    A person could drive from Los Angeles to New York City, and both sides of the interstate would be lined up end-to-end with log trucks full of trees cut from America’s National Forests in just one year.

    I encourage people to think about this next time the timber industry or politicians say “there’s no logging on national forests.”

    • The US imported about 2 billion board feet of lumber in 2020. If we don’t harvest here, it’ll get harvested elsewhere.

      • The U.S. is also the world’s second largest exporter of wood products. So there’s that. Wood products, like almost everything else, is traded willy nilly across national borders. Every now and then a country goes a little crazy and tries to staunch wood’s outflow or inflow in response to well-connected domestic political interests (e.g., the southeast U.S.’s softwood lumber industry). Doing so only increases prices to that country’s wood consumers, i.e., makes that home you want to buy or build more expensive.

            • Andy: Does milk come from a cow? The point here is that sawmill jobs are at stake. Plus trucking, bookkeeping, rent and meals. There is a big difference between logs and lumber to the rural communities in which these forests exist. We are better off exporting milk than we are exporting the cows that produce it; same with logs and jobs.

              • And ,maybe with a very few exceptions, no logs are exported from federal lands.
                And I imagine one days traffic in the Los Angeles basin is more than equal to 10 years of log truck traffic off federal lands.

    • That is a lot of wood!. We need to stop cutting any trees in the USA and only import paper and wood from countries with less strict environmental regulations!

    • There were 262 working days in 2020, according a quick Google search.

      Assuming that logs are hauled every single work day, that 460,000 log trucks divided by 262 days, or 1763.358 log trucks per working day. Round up to 1,765 log trucks per day.

      60 feet times 1,765 log trucks gives 105,900 feet of log truck.

      105,900 feet of log truck converts to about 20 miles of log truck, per day, for one year.
      Assume driving at 60mph on the interstate, that’s 20 minutes of driving seeing log trucks, with another 40 minutes seeing the scenery.

      20 miles of log truck, per day, for one year, spread out over how many sales and Forests?
      The link shows 795 sales that were not non-convertible or <300$. That gives 0.025 miles of log truck per sale, or 132 feet of log truck per sale, or just over 2 log trucks per sale.

      If we go through with make all kinds of simple assumptions about log trucks and volume and highway length.

  2. Exactly, Steve, for meaningful logging and fuels treatments to even start addressing the wildfire, insect and disease conditions on NF lands, we need to be consistently harvesting 6 Billion and feet! We used to do 10 -12, which is probably too much, but ambitious….?

  3. If the Washington DNR had the same land management objectives as the Forest Service that might be a fair comparison, but they don’t. Forest Service also manages wilderness and many other areas that are not suited for timber harvest.

    • Not the way it works; 192 million acres in the NF system, approximately 38% suitable lands for timber production leaves a whole bunch of volume accounted for in the “allowable sale quantity”. Sure, there is other volume off “non-suitable”, but the “suitable” base can carry in excess of 6 billion feet/year in perpetuity – if we don’t burn it all up!

  4. Quantity (acres) is one way to measure accomplishment, i.e. cutting trees for the sake of cutting trees. Get the cut out! Quality is another measure. Are we doing effective harvesting in the right places with the right harvest methods? Is the American taxpayer get a good bang for the buck regarding timber harvesting on federal lands? Timber revenues for FY 21 were $197,876,000. The Forest Products budget request for FY 21 was $385,000,000. One can make the case that timber sales are significantly subsidized. We should be getting a real benefit to our Forests with this subsidy. This link provides some interesting information. It shows that timber volume sold has decreased dramatically over the last 30 years. Why is that? Probably lots of reasons. Blaming it all on environmental lawsuits is too easy. Sure, that’s part of the issue but certainly not the entire problem. A major shifting of resources and funding to fire would be at least one of the reasons. This link also has information that shows the $/MBF is now half of what it was in 2000. Price was even much higher in 1990 when volume sold was significantly more. If indeed, there is a problem with supply in the country, why are we seeing such low price/MBF? What about the old rules of supply and demand?

    • Another factor to consider is the near-monopoly of lumber mills in some areas. “Base rates” are a real thing. Many parts of California have only one lumber mill that wins bids. One should also consider what is in the appraisal, to see what is ‘subsidized’.

    • David… I can’t keep up with lumber prices, but they may be more volatile especially now, such that it’s hard to get an average price. Here are a few paras from Fortune Mag from Dec. 2.

      “What’s going on? This current run—which has seen lumber prices rise 11 out of the past 13 weeks—started with the return of do-it-yourselfers into the market once prices came down this summer. At the same time, sawmills curtailed softwood lumber production in the face of a bad wildfire season in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. That combination of falling supply and rising demand pushed prices up 40% by late October. But the run on prices didn’t kick into high gear until a record rainfall hit British Columbia last month. The ensuing flooding and mudslides destroyed bridges and roads, causing mayhem in an already-stretched wood products supply chain.

      “The disastrous flooding and washouts that took place in the southern part of British Columbia in mid-November has significantly altered market conditions and overall sentiment. Critical truck and rail routes have been impacted by the record flooding, and while some of the most severe disruptions appear to be resolved, bottlenecks with shipping and distribution will probably last several weeks,” Dustin Jalbert, a senior economist at Fastmarkets RISI who covers the lumber market, tells Fortune. “In response, we’ve seen a ramp up of buying as wholesalers and retailers look to secure supplies for fear of being caught short again for the spring 2022 building season.”

  5. I did the math – the harvest per acre was like 1/15th of that on corporate hardwood lands in the WV and PA Allegheny Mountains, where I might add the other resources, especially wildlife are in far better shape than the Monongahela or Allegheny. Methinks we could and should be cutting more for a myriad of very good reasons.


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