Green Crow has been investing in and managing timberland in the Pacific Northwest since 1983. The core target area for investment in this region lies on the western side of the Cascade Mountains in the states of Oregon and Washington. Green Crow has also been active over the years east of the Cascades and in Idaho, although these lands are less productive biologically. Investments in northern California are sometimes considered, but the regulatory challenges are often overwhelming. The region as a whole has been producing timber for the needs of the nation since the 1850’s, if not earlier. Today, the privately owned commercial timberland in the region is in the second or third rotation of professional plantation management.
Forests west of the Cascade Mountains receive as much as 200 inches of rain per year and have very high biological growth rates, both on an individual tree basis and a per acre basis. Higher biological growth increases the potential rate of return from timberland investments. This, combined with strong markets for timber and logs, makes the Pacific Northwest a favorable region to invest.
These are generally softwood, or coniferous forests. The principle commercial softwood species in the Green Crow operating area are Douglas-fir and western hemlock. Associated species, although sometimes only as minor components, are western red cedar, Sitka spruce and red alder (the most important hardwood in the region). The true firs, pines and several other conifers are more commonly found at higher elevations or in regions of lower rainfall.
The markets for logs in the region to domestic manufacturers are generally very strong for both saw logs and pulpwood. Although less certain, the Asian market for logs is also currently (2011) very strong. Most timberlands on the west side are accessible to one or more deep water ports where logs are loaded on ships and sold to customers in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, India and other Asian countries. Having both a healthy domestic market and an alternative export market results is a very dynamic situation that presents the landowners with both challenges and opportunities.
Modern softwood plantation management technology has reduced the harvest age of the timber from as high as 70 years old in the 1980’s, to as low as 35 years old today. On average, the current rotation age is estimated to be 45 years old, depending on several factors. The shorter rotation ages have been made possible by improvements in manufacturing technology to process these smaller logs.
On typical “Site II” land growing a mixture of hemlock and Douglas-fir, the average yield at age 45 could exceed 1.0 MBF per acre per year, or 8.5 tons per acre per year.