Timber harvests in North America were up for the fourth consecutive year in 2013, reaching 510 million m3, based on analysis by WRI (Wood Resource International). Despite an annual increase of three percent each of the past four years, harvest levels in North America are still substantially lower than what they were before the great recession. Ten years ago, the total timber harvest in North America was about 40% higher than in 2013, and the harvest in the US itself at that time was more than what was logged in all of North America.
In 2013, softwood removals in the US were up by three percent from the previous year, primarily as a result of higher log exports to Asia and increased domestic lumber production. Higher manufacturing of hardwood lumber and of OSB were the main drivers of the increase in hardwood timber harvests last year.
Demand for logs from the pulp sector, which consumed about 45% of the total timber harvest in 2013, fell as a result of lower pulp production and increased availability of residuals chips from the sawmilling sector. However, logging activities varied throughout the country with some regions, such as the northeast and part of the South, recording only modest increases in roundwood removals, while for example the forest-rich western Oregon harvested 13% more volume in 2013 than in 2012 thanks to log and lumber exports to Asia.
Timber harvests in Canada have gone up every year since 2009, reaching over 130 million m3 in 2013, almost 30% more than in 2009. A combination of higher log exports to China, a rise in OSB production, and increased demand for logs from the domestic lumber industry have been the major drivers for higher log demand the past few years.
The timber harvest trend in Canada has mirrored the US trend with much higher harvest volumes ten years ago, a sharp decline in 2008-2009, followed by a slow and steady increase the past four years. End-uses for harvested timber in Canadian are quite different from those of the US with as much as 71% of the logs being consumed by the sawmilling sector and only 15% by the pulp sector.