NAHB Chairman Urges Congress to Boost Lumber Production from Federal Lands

Filed in Advocacy, Housing Affordability, Material Costs by on June 29, 2021 9 Comments

To help resolve lumber supply shortages and rein in elevated prices, NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke today called on Congress to increase domestic lumber production from federal lands, both as a means to improve housing affordability and address the resilience of our national forests.

Appearing at a forum conducted by Republican members of the House Natural Resources Committee and GOP members of the House Western Caucus to discuss skyrocketing lumber prices, Fowke said that boosting domestic lumber production is just part of the solution.

“We also need to resolve the long-standing trade dispute with Canada over softwood lumber imports as well as solving supply chain and labor supply disruptions that continue to linger,” Fowke said.

Illustrating the unprecedented rapid rise in lumber prices over the past year that has added nearly $36,000 to the price of a new home, Fowke told lawmakers that lumber prices have increased more than 165% percent since April 2020. OSB prices are also up nearly 400%, and the Random Lengths Framing Composite Index price shot past the $1,500 barrier for the first time ever in May.

“For context, the previous high was $582 in 2018 and framing lumber typically trades around $425 per thousand board feet,” Fowke noted. “These historic price increases are dramatically raising home prices and rental costs and threaten the nation’s economic recovery.”

Lumber prices currently stand at elevated levels, though they have fallen in recent weeks. However, these recent price declines are not due to an increase in supply.

“We see it due to a slowdown in housing production, which should alarm everyone,” Fowke said. “In May, single-family starts fell 5.9% and that follows significant downward revisions to the April estimate and previous months’ readings.”

Regarding the nation’s federally owned forests, Fowke noted that timber harvests from the National Forest System averaged between 10 and 12 billion board feet for a 40-year period from the mid-1950s and then plunged precipitously to an average between 1.5 and 3.3 billion board feet per year starting in the mid-1990s due to bureaucratic red tape and litigation.

Over the course of three decades there has been a dramatic decline in timber production from our federally owned forests.

“We must strike a more appropriate balance in how we manage our national forests,” Fowke told lawmakers. “Doing so will restore the health of one of our great natural resources and offers the potential to reinvigorate the forestry industry while improving housing affordability. That’s a win-win-win in my book.”

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Comments (9)

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  1. Jeffrey M Teddy says:

    I totally agree with the Chairman’s above letter. I do not understand why Congress has done nothing to combat the insane rise in lumber prices. They are showing no concern for American Families and the out of control housing costs. Unfortunately I don’t think congress wants to manage our National Forests it would disrupt their political agenda.

  2. Contractor says:

    There is plenty of “wood” around.
    The problem is there aren’t enough mills turning that “wood” into lumber to build with.
    The mills complain about shortage of workers. Raise wages and that will attract workers. Why should someone want to work in a grueling mill job if they can make the same, or even more money, in an air conditioned Amazon warehouse.

  3. I agree that the US should do more to help with lumber supply in order to keep homes more affordable. I also agree that the lumber price decline wasn’t fully due to supply increasing but the demand decreasing. We’ve seen home builders across the US start to limit the number of homes they sell each month to better manage their businesses, financially and for even flow production.

  4. Cheri Thompson says:

    The entire southeast is full of privately owned timber we can’t give away. I have 50 acres of magnificent mixed pine and hardwood that I’ll sell, sans red tape. Why does it have to be federal land if you can access privately-held timber to supply the housing industry needs which would also benefit the agricultural sector. Contractor hit the nail on the head in his/her comment above: what congress needs to do and NAHB needs to push is offer low-interest loans to refurbish or build new lumber mills, and pay wages that make people want to go into the timber industry.

  5. Mark Edy says:

    You can talk about lack of production, mill workers wages, federal land harvests, but that is only a portion of why lumber prices rose dramatically. Another impact is the tariff on Canadian lumber which certainly has increased the average price. But one point that is ignored is that lumber possibly has been priced TOO LOW for too long. In 1974 the average price of a home in the US was $35,900. In 2021 that has risen to $408800 or over 11 times that of 1974. At the same time, lumber prices for dimension lumber in 1974 was around
    $140 per thousand board feet. If the price of lumber was 10 times what it was in 1974 that would equivocate to $1,400 per thousand board feet. Lumber is too cheap!

  6. Wes builder says:

    Oregon in the late 70’s and early 80’s my home town was a longing community. Then regulations pretty much put a stop to it with today my town being 90% a tourist industry dependent town no with very little logging at all.
    These lands need to be opened back up, this will give good jobs to an area that has never recovered (med income is 29k yrly with homes med pricing of 450k). Also, the logging of public lands will be a massive help to the forest fires that rip through these 40-50 yr old forest lands that have had zero management b
    The last two issues will be to address labor (regulatory needs to loosen allowing for higher wages to employees) and the shipping/trucking issue (massive shortages on truckers is and will killing pricing if we cannot get materials and other needed goods necessary for production from A to B and then to C).

  7. I wouldn’t get my hopes too high. The pharmaceutical companies and oil industries have been doing it for years with no repercussions. The only hope is a government that stands for the people it represents. Currently I don’t think that’s what we have. So I expect to continue paying too much for for building materials until that changes.

  8. Mark Zornig says:

    I’m a lifelong builder with a Masters degree in timber management whose dad was a forest engineer for the USFR. I agree totally that we can increase the yield from our Federal lands by cutting the red tape while still protecting the environment, trout streams, and wildlife habitat. Trees are a renewable resource! My local lumber suppliers are not dropping the prices yet even though commodity prices have fallen significantly. High priced inventory is just sitting on their yards! We aren’t buying it because the damn prices are too high!
    Both the builders and buyers need some relief.

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