OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

2013/2014: Utility Pole Timber Harvest

    During the summer of 2013, a low volume harvest was conducted on the Cameron Tract with the goal of producing logs to be used as utiity poles. The engineering department at the College Forests took the lead in the harvest efforts, located on a 25-acre stand in the interior of the forest. The majority of this stand consisted of 80 year-old Douglas-fir with a few scattered 100 to 120 year old trees.  The College of Forestry aimed to thin the stand light enough to maintain the forest health and integrity, while generating income. The utility-pole market spiked in 2013, which provided the ideal opportunity to conduct such a harvest. Pacific Enterprises from Tangent, Oregon signed a contract to mark and buy the pole logs while the company Cross and Crown from Carlton, Oregon was contracted to log and haul the poles. Pole buyers from Pacific Enterprises came to the Cameron Tract site as the road was reconstructed to pre-mark trees they would consider high enough quality to be a pole. A pole tree should be relatively uniform in diameter from DBH (diameter at breast height) until about 60 to 90 feet up the tree. The tree should also have a consistent taper and be free from defect such as a sweeping curve or a split top. The College of Forestry sought to remove approximately 8-10 trees per uniformly over the stand. Those of us working on the Cameron Tract project had the ability to approve each individual tree for removal to help mitigate wind damage and aesthetics of the future Firehouse Trail. We also ensured the trees marked were dispersed throughout the stand and not all removed from one area.

      Across the 25 acres, the harvest yielded 405 individual logs. The pole buyers wanted pole logs around 50 feet in length. Depending on the height of the tree and damage sustained to the tree during the felling process, they were able to acquire either two pole logs from one tree, or a single pole log and a shorter, standard saw log. Over 90,000 board feet were cut in pole logs and an additional 33,000 board feet in saw logs (link table). This generated approximately $122,000. After logging costs, the tract netted $83,000 total revenue. Logging operations wrapped up in September of 2013. Walking through the stand several months later, it was difficult to even tell the area had been logged.

        A small woodland owner may have a variety of reason for opting to harvest timber. Rather than a clear-cut or simply selling off forestland to generate revenue, the Cameron Tract project aimed to demonstrate how an unusual type of harvest could be financially lucrative while simultaneously sustainable and beneficial for other values such as forest health. A stand of timber similar to this could provide an on-going investment for a small woodland owner, with the opportunity for small harvests to take advantage of changes in niche markets while still maintain the option of a larger harvest.

    

     Resources for Small Woodland Owners

     If a small woodland owner is considering a timber harvest, their first move should be contacting their local county extension agent. From there, that agent should be able to direct them to a variety of resources and correct legal avenues pursuant to logging. Resources within extension include the Master Woodland Managers program. This program creates the opportunity for forest landowners to take classes through extension service, become certified, and then to donate their time to mentor other woodland owners on the knowledge they have gained. As with any timber sale statewide in Oregon, a small woodland owner will also need to contact the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and inform them of their intention to harvest. The ODF website as well as the Oregon Forest Resources Institute website can offer valuable insight to the Oregon Forest Practices Act and the specific regulations imposed on logging within the state.