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Timber Harvesting Safety

18-R-15: Forest Management Practices of Private Timberland Owners and Managers in the U.S. Northwest



In Spring 2017, Forisk surveyed the silvicultural practices of industrial and institutional timberland owners and managers in the U.S. West. We gathered data from 15 firms on timberland management activities for 4.3 million acres of privately owned forests in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Questions focused on forest management activities completed in 2016 (from January through December). All firms owned or managed a minimum of 10,000 acres each. Results covered three geographic regions, with many firms managing land in multiple regions (Figure 1). TIMOs accounted for 45% of the surveyed lands, followed by forest industry and REITs (38%), and independent private owners (17%).

Figure 1. Three Regions Evaluated in Western Silviculture Survey

Image Forest Management Practices Of Private Timberland Owners And Managers In The U.S. Northwest


Firms actively employed silvicultural practices to improve growth and yields on lands in 2016, but activities vary significantly between markets east and west of the Cascades. Douglas-fir is the predominant species planted west of the Cascades, while a mixture of other species cover the greatest percentage of area in the East. Chemical herbaceous weed control was most prevalent in Western Oregon (75% of planted acres) while it was used on less than half of planted acres in the other two regions. Only 40% of respondents applied fertilization, and only on 0.5% of lands under management. No fertilized acres were reported in the Eastern region.

Figure 2. Acres Planted by Species and Region


Figure 3. Prevalence of Herbaceous and Woody Competition Control


Pre-commercial thinning was reported by 93% of firms and was performed at an average stand age of 15 (Figure 4). Commercial thinning was less common; 73% of respondents reported its use, performed at an average age of 29 west of the Cascades and 33 east of the Cascades (Figure 5). Average final harvest age was between 50 and 52 years west of the Cascades and 72 years east of the Cascades. The expected final harvest age of stands planted in 2016 was 7-8 years shorter west of the Cascades and 25 years shorter east of the Cascades. This could speak to a shift from largely natural regeneration in the East to planted stands. Nearly equal areas were harvested with ground-based and cable logging systems in the regions west of the Cascades, while ground-based systems harvested two-thirds of the area east of the Cascades (Figure 6).

Figure 4. Douglas-fir Pre-Commercial Thinning


Figure 5. Commercial Thinning and Final Harvest Characteristics

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Figure 6. Cable and Ground-Based Harvesting System Characteristics


This study provides a window into the current forest management practices of larger private land managers in the U.S. West. Subsequent future surveys will give us a better understanding of how management changes over time, given improved silvicultural technologies, changing markets, and shifts in timberland ownership.

Shawn Baker, Amanda Lang, and Brooks Mendell
Forisk Consulting
PO Box 5070
Athens, GA30604
(770) 725-8447

Reviewed by:
Vickie Swanton, FRA Western Region Manager