Tribal Government & News

Larger, longer Tribal timber filling a profitable niche market

01.14.2015 Ron Karten Natural Resources

The Tribe is able to supply timber to huge retail stores, an ark like Noah’s and customers in Japan and China because it grows trees longer, both by time and size.

Reservation forests produce 7.12 million board feet a year, a harvest number set by the Natural Resources Department’s 10-year management plan, says Michael Wilson, manager of the department. This is part of the effort to meet a departmental goal of producing “an even flow of sustainable timber” annually.

Reservation timber stands are harvested on a 70-year rotation and the Reservation contains some stands of timber older than 70 years. Some older trees are cut and sold at longer lengths for the manufacture of large beams and utility poles and others are cut for mills needing shorter saw logs, says Forester Andrew Puerini.

Mills pay more to the Tribe on average for longer logs on a per thousand board feet basis, he adds.

Among current clients for Tribal logs are Monroe, Ore.-based Hull-Oakes Lumber, which specializes in finishing larger and longer logs for many uses.

Other clients include Salem-based Hampton Tree Farms, which finishes Tribal timber for structural and dimensional lumber uses; Tacoma-based McFarland Cascade, which turns Tribal timber into utility poles; Longview-based Pacific Lumber and Shipping, which sells Tribal logs overseas; Eugene-based Northwest Hardwoods Inc., which buys Tribal red alder and maple for domestic saw logs; and Lyons, Ore.-based Coastal Fibre, which uses Tribal non-saw logs for pulp used to manufacture paper and pressed wood products.

End uses of Tribal timber are even more interesting.

Tribal client Hull-Oakes Lumber supplies Ark Encounter, a Williamstown, Ky., company building a teaching replica of Noah’s Ark. At 500 feet long and 80 feet wide with towers 80 feet high, the ark is expected to require 2.5 million board feet, a good portion of the first million board feet coming from Grand Ronde Tribal forests, says Puerini.

Another Hull-Oakes project using Tribal trees is a huge Memphis, Tenn., outlet for the chain of Springfield, Mo.-based Bass Pro Shops. The re-purposed 535,000-square-foot sports arena holds the retail store, a 100-room hotel and a restaurant. This could be the first of many company buildings going up across the United States and Canada, Puerini says.

“We shipped about 350,000 board feet of timber to Memphis for construction,” says Hull-Oakes buyer Nathan Nystrom, fourth generation in the family business. “We started cutting for that order at the end of May and finished toward the end of August.” 

“Most smaller-log guys,” adds Nystrom, “are cutting timbers 32 to 40 feet. The Tribe cuts timbers to 52 to 56 feet,” and up to130 feet for utility poles, adds Puerini.

Hull-Oakes also cuts longer logs for projects like bridges and trestles, residential and commercial timber-framed buildings, and pole barns.

Hull-Oakes’ trade in longer logs came from the company’s beginnings, says Nystrom. “When the market changes came during the 1970s to 1990s, we had a customer base and a niche that we felt we could stick with.”

Growing larger timber longer, Wilson says, “also meets other goals for the Tribe: creating good wildlife habitat, better carbon storage and other environmental benefits like overall watershed health. We don’t have to enter the stands so often, and all that gives us benefits like habitat for elk and other animals and a more natural forest.

“Tribal timber can be used for structural purposes and sold to clients who require structure and aesthetics. Our wood makes high quality, large and strong beams for support and they’re also very interesting and beautiful. It’s great all around.”