A stack of Washington timber is stacked, awaiting delivery to the mill.

Stewardship and sustainability in a growing industry.

For almost 200 years, the forest industry has played a central role in Washington’s economy. In the early days, the virgin forests that covered the state helped fuel Western expansion and turned small logging camps into flourishing communities. Today, the forest products sector is the third-largest manufacturing industry in Washington, creating jobs and opportunities for visionary companies and investors alike.

In an age where sustainability and stewardship are as crucial as yield, the state has led the way in reinventing the industry for more than a century – from developing innovative worker’s compensation programs for loggers and sawmill workers at the turn of the 20th century to creating the world’s first tree farms, treating trees as an agricultural crop instead of a finite natural resource.

Despite many challenges faced over the years, the industry’s ability to innovate, modernize and diversify provides adequate proof that this vital contributor to Washington’s economy will continue to play a significant role for generations to come.

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Industry Snapshot

  • Washington has 22 million acres of forestland. About four million of that is privately owned.
  • 70% of the timber harvested in the state comes from these private forests.
  • Washington is the second-largest producer of lumber in the United States.
  • The forest products sector supports a workforce of approximately 42,000 workers.
  • There are 1,700+ forest product businesses in Washington State.
  • Gross business income for sector businesses is $28 million annually.
  • Cross-laminated timber is one of the fastest-growing segments of the industry.

An in-depth look.

Washington State’s forest products sector covers a broad range of business lines, from traditional cutting and lumber production to chips, sawdust, wood flooring, shingles, tiles, millwork, laminated veneer and fencing. The industry also encompasses pulp and paper and value-added products such as doors, window frames, and stairs, offering companies a wide range of expansion and growth opportunities.

About half of Washington is forested. In the Western part of the state, 75% of the trees are less than a century old, and about half are less than 40 years old, considered the optimal harvest age.

The annual harvest of trees is about 2.7 billion board feet. Approximately 85% of that is harvested from Western Washington forests. Douglas fir and Western hemlock are the two most common species harvested statewide, accounting for 75% of total production. The remaining 25% of the total harvest comes from mixed conifers, Ponderosa pine, other mixed pines, hardwood species and cedars.

Balancing production with sustainability, Washington’s 1,700+ forest products businesses employ some 42,000 workers, earning nearly $3 billion in wages annually. More than 10% of forestry-related jobs are “green” compared to about 3% for the state’s workforce as a whole. Gross business income is approximately $28 billion annually.

With advances in growth strategies and timber management practices, per acre yields are predicted to continue to climb in the years to come, ensuring a steady supply of forest products for the industry.

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a rapidly growing opportunity for the lumber industry in Washington State. Two new production facilities have opened in the state to handle current and anticipated demand for this revolutionary new CLT, which requires less energy to produce than other building materials while offering substantial fire retardation and reduced CO2 levels for the environment.

The age-old use of biomass to power saw and paper mills is having a spillover effect as processes are modernized and optimized for use on a broader scale in communities throughout Washington. New enterprises and new innovations continue to find new uses for the entire tree, from milled lumber to biofuels.

The University of Washington and Washington State University continue to perform research on how forest products can be used to power the nation’s transportation network. This cutting-edge research has drawn interest from the Department of Defense, Boeing and Alaska Airlines, which has conducted test flights using this new generation of forest-driven fuels.

Biomass utilization will play an essential role in the state’s green economy goals. Not only does it hold promise as a fuel and power generation material, but the removal of this biomass from forest lands reduces the risk of fires, pests and diseases that can seriously affect the crop.

Researchers are also looking at new ways to improve tree seed to have a higher yield and is more resilient. This tree improvement program provides high-quality, genetically appropriate seedlings to family forest owners. In addition to Douglas fir, which is the state’s most economically important species, this program has also established seed orchards for western larch, lodgepole pine and ponderosa pine.

We’re a cut above the others!

Whether you’re planning to take the world by storm with a new line of wood furnishings or investing in next-generation CLT products, Washington State is the ideal choice.

Our culture of creativity, a legacy of responsible stewardship balanced by continued industry growth, a stunning landscape of old-growth timbers and rich biodiversity, offers you excellent opportunities for growth, expansion and investment.

To learn more about our forest products sector, give us a call at (206) 256-6100 or use the email contact below. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and help your business achieve success in Washington.

 

Brian Hatfield, Forest Products Sector Lead & Rural Economic Development Advisor – Phone: (360) 819-2936

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