Foreign forests keep mills alive

  Even as the United States cuts fewer trees on its public lands and exports fewer raw logs, some mills stay as busy as ever. How? By milling imported logs.


In Oregon, some mills are relying on imports of plantation-grown radiata pine from Chile and New Zealand to replace the dwindling supply of domestic trees.


Cascade Wood Products Inc. of White City, Ore., began importing the logs 10 years ago to make porch posts, The Oregonian reports. Then it was a novelty; today, radiata pine feeds three-fourths of the company's production of window and door frames.


"Five years ago, no one would have guessed or even considered that," said Hakan Ekstrom, editor of the Seattle-based North American Wood Fiber Review.


In 1991, the U.S. imported 7.6 million board-feet; last year, the amount had jumped to 84 million board-feet. Meanwhile, exports of raw logs to Japan - the destination of 95 percent of U.S. log exports - are dropping. As recently as 1989, Japan imported 28 million board-feet of American logs. Ekstrom estimates that trade dropped to under 14 million board-feet last year.


* Dustin Solberg