The Pacific Northwest states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho supply about half of the total lumber in the United States. Washington is generally the third- or fourth-largest producer of the 50 states, with Oregon taking the lead since 1938. Douglas fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar are some of the commercially important trees native to the area west of the Cascades.
Wood and wood products have been a vital part of Washington’s economy ever since the coastal Native Americans first began using cedar for longhouses, totem poles, and canoes—they even made clothing from cedar bark. The first white settlers and missionaries used wood for construction of their forts, homes, and blockhouses, and British explorer John Meares was the first to ship lumber to the Orient in 1788. Seattle’s  founding fathers depended on lumber sales to San Francisco for much of their income; Yesler’s waterfront sawmill was an important part of the city’s early economy. The lumber business boomed with the cheaper transportation provided by the arrival of the railroads in Puget Sound in the late 1880s and 1890s.
In 1900, Frederick Weyerhaeuser purchased 900,000 acres of prime forest land from the Northern Pacific Railroad for $6 an acre, later increasing his holdings to over two million acres by 1913. With over six million acres today, the Weyerhaeuser Corporation is the largest lumber company in the country.
Forests cover over 23 million Washington acres, 18 million of which are commercial forests. It’s difficult to look at the shaved hillsides of the Cascades and not think it offensive, but all of us use wood, the trees are replanted, and logging and wood products still employ a substantial number of Washington’s workers.