Sawmills in the western United States produced just 10.39 billion board feet (bbf) of lumber in 2009, 20% below 2008's rate and the lowest annual production since the Western Wood Products Association (WWPA) began keeping statistics, WWPA announced Thursday. Meanwhile, southern production dropped 19.5% to 11.79 bbf, the lowest number since 1986, and imports shrank 30% to 8.9 bbf, the lowest since 1976.

Output from Western lumber mills has fallen 46% since 2005, and current output hasn't been this low since 1982, when 13.7 bbf of lumber was produced, the WWPA said. It based its numbers on a survey of 170 mills in 12 states. The dollar value of 2009's production fell 26% from 2008 to reach $2.69 billion. Five years ago, the 19.3 bbf of lumber those mill produced fetched $7.7 billion.

Overall demand for lumber totaled 31.3 bbf, less than half what it was in 2005, the Portland, Ore.-based WWPA said. And of that total, the amount of wood used for residential construction dropped in 2009 to 7.3 bbf vs. 27.6 bbf in 2005.