The oak timber base and market: past, present, and futureThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Since 1992, the oaks (Quercus spp.) have accounted for a third of the eastern hardwood growing stock volume, but oak poletimber volume has declined from 27 percent of total hardwood poletimber volume in 1992 to 23 percent in 2012 with most of this change occurring since 2002. This decline is a precursor to a reduction in oak sawtimber volume in the future in the absence of successful timber management efforts to avert it. The decline in oak poletimber volume initially occurred concurrently with a decline in consumption and price of higher grade hardwood lumber and a historic reduction in the margins between lumber and stumpage prices. These declines in price margins appear to be a market aberration since margins recovered to prerecession levels by 2017. The greatest value for oak and most other hardwood species is associated with aesthetic attributes which are influenced by the rate and consistency of tree growth, bole clarity, and wood color. Desirable attributes may take 75 years to develop. The extended period of time it takes oak to mature combined with the price risk due to market variability and changing fashion trends makes the time value of money a barrier to oak management. An understanding of economic factors that influence hardwood markets should be embodied in the development of timber management plans. Successful oak regeneration could be promoted as a part of hardwood sustainability certification, thereby transferring the management costs to the current customers of hardwood products.