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Timber Prices Go 'Timber'

Pennsylvania's second-quarter timber market report: Prices continue to fall.

Timber stumpage prices are continuing their decline in the Northeast's largest timber market. The highest-valued furniture-grade woods suffered the heaviest dollar losses. That's the word from Mike Jacobsen, Penn State Extension forester.

The latest quarterly (second quarter 2008) survey by Penn State's School of Forest Resources found that market prices were slipping down again, after a relatively stable period last fall, says Jacobsen. The survey is based on reports from loggers, sawmill operators, consultants, plus state and federal agency experts

"The main causes are the unstable economy and high energy prices, he adds. "What's surprising to me is the 20 to 30% drop in Black Cherry prices in the Northern tier. High fuel prices are preventing mills from buying timber that's farther away."

Compared to fourth quarter 2007, white ash prices trends were more variable, with northern Pennsylvania prices gaining and southern Pennsylvania regions falling. That white ash drop, theorizes Jacobsen, could be attributed to the increased harvesting of this species in fear of the Emerald Ash Borer.

Here's a quick peek at the statewide range of change in key timber stumpage values from fourth-quarter 2007 through second-quarter 2008:

Black cherry: -23% to -46%.

Hard maple: -14% to -35%

Northern red oak: -14% to -19%.

White ash: -23% to +23%.

White pine: -1% to -50%.

Yellow-poplar: -20% to +5%.

For a closer look at prices in Pennsylvania's four reporting regions, go to www.sfr.cas.psu.edu/TMR.

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