Oregon’s Logging Industry Has Helped Shape the State We Know Today
Oregon logging has a long history, dating back to before the state was even part of the union. When the pioneers reached Oregon, they found abundant old-growth forests with timber that had never been cut. Eager entrepreneurs were drawn to the vast forests, looking to make their fortunes off the huge demand for lumber that the gold rush had produced.
There is over 150 years of history in the wood products industry in Oregon, beginning with the first established sawmill built west of the Mississippi River in 1827 near Fort Vancouver. In 1849, wealthy farmers began to build homes of sawed lumber instead of residing in log cabins, and the lumber industry began to take off. By 1900, the lumber industry assumed a major role in the state’s economy.
Here are 4 facts about Oregon’s logging history and industry that you probably didn’t know.
1. Many Logging Companies Migrated to Oregon From Other Parts of the Country
Before Oregon logging was as established as it is today, most of the lumber produced in the United States was sourced first from northeastern states and then later the Great Lakes region. When the Hudson’s Bay Company built the first water-powered sawmill in the region in Fort Vancouver, it kicked off the start of a brand-new trade.
As the forests of the Midwest began to thin out, lumber companies began to set their sights on the farther-off forests of British Columbia, Washington, and, of course, Oregon.
Charles Axel Smith was one of the first such tycoons to stake his claim, following the example of earlier lumber suppliers and setting up a brand-new mill on Coos Bay in 1908. From that point on, more and more companies began to open their own mills along the Oregon coast.
2. Oregon Enacted the First Set of State Laws Governing Forestry
With so much invested personally and financially in the state forests, it’s no surprise that Oregonians are concerned with their conservation. Knowing how important trees were to the state’s livelihood, Oregon was the very first state to write legislation specifically governing the harvesting of lumber.
The State Forestry Department, along with a new Board of Forestry and a State Forester, was created in 1911 in an effort to minimize the problem of forest fires. Years later, The Oregon Forest Practices Act was enacted in 1971 to set the standard for all commercial activities involving Oregon’s forests. The laws cover management, harvesting, and reforestation, all falling under the purview of the state Board of Forestry.
3. Oregon Retains Nearly 92 Percent of The Forest That Covered the State in 1850
This is a testament to the commitment Oregonians made to the long-term survival of the forests and the important resources they provide. It may have taken some time and mistakes for the industry to learn how to take care of the forests properly, but this speaks to their early awareness that this resource was not immune to greed and over production. Within the industry, it was shown from the northeast to the midwest that if there were no rules set in place, logging could wipe out whole forests and ecosystems within years.
4. Oregon’s Logging Industry Employs Nearly 60,000 People in the State
Forest related employment in Oregon totaled 61,100 in 2017, which accounted for 3 percent of Oregon’s workforce. Employment was in slow decline between 2005 and 2009 due to the recession and has since leveled off. The total number can vary depending on the season, but much of the work is done both in the trees and in the mills producing goods and services from logging.
These jobs are through both federal and state organizations, as well as private companies invested in the logging industry.
How Can Agents Utilize This Information About Oregon’s Logging History?
You’re probably wondering what you’ll do with this new information and how you can utilize it. Information like this can be useful “informative ammo” when you’re networking, working with a client, or even looking to cater to a new audience. The logging and wood industry employs 3% of the state which can be useful if you work in a market near a mill or forest system that feeds the logging industry.
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