The sawmill industry developed rapidly in the 17th century. In 1650 there were 1750 sawmills in the country. In the late 18th century, exports stagnated due to lower production and rising domestic consumption. After 1812, sawmills fell, and it was not until 1845 that exports reached the same level as at the beginning of the century.
In 1818 the sawmill restrictions were eased, and the farmers were again able to cut timber from their own forest. At this time, many of the old trading houses went bankrupt because they encountered new customs walls, including the important English market. Some of the forest properties the lumber dealers had acquired were bought back by the farmers. In 1840 there were 2000 farmer cases and 700 privileged sawmills in Norway. In 1842, England eased import restrictions and eventually became the most important market. The increased timber trade led to increased activity in the villages. The railway facilitated plank transport, and channeling was initiated which facilitated timber flooding on important watercourses.
In 1840, the first circular saws came, and the first steam saw was erected in Namdalen in 1853. The law that stipulated that commercial sawmills should have royal operating privileges related to certain waterfalls was abolished with effect from 1860. Many timber traders then invested in steam saws at the outflows of large flooding rivers. This is how Fredrikstad and Namsos became “plank towns”. The steam saws required larger units, and many of them were equipped with planing machines that made it possible to deliver more refined wood. In 1866, the first wooden grinding mill was built at Bentse Brug in Oslo. In 1874 Hafslund built the first sulfate cellulose factory, and in 1881 followed the first sulfite cellulose factory in Skien. The development of the sawmill and wood processing industries created greater demand for timber. Prices were periodically high, and families who owned a lot of forest were getting used to a flashy lifestyle.
Also in the 20th century, when industrialization of the country accelerated, forestry and forestry continued to be important industries. In the post- World War II period, the forestry sector was important as a supplier of materials for reconstruction and as a source of foreign currency earnings, which at that time was an important economic point. About 30 per cent of the income from goods exports came from the forest sector. The prices of forest products were high. Increasing timber production in both the short and long term was considered desirable.
Utmarka’s production potential should be exploited to the best of its ability to provide raw material for the important forest industry and secure revenue base for landowners and forest workers. The state established nurseries and provided generous grants for planting, especially in the coastal and mountain areas. Many marsh areas were drained and tried to be converted into woodland. Investments in forest roads and forest machines were given favorable terms and also direct public subsidies. This led to a trend where employment in forestry declined rapidly, and by the end of the 1900s it was only ten percent of what it was around 1950, or approx. 5000 man-years. Greater financial support was also given to silvicultural work and afforestation (tree species change) in the coastal areas. A restructuring of forest management with increased use of logging and reforestation of new forest was initiated.
From the 1970s there was a resistance to this development from nature conservation, initially as a conflict between forestry and recreational interests (Oslomarka). Especially after the Rio Conference in 1992 on biodiversity conservation, the production of wood is seen in a broader perspective. Production must be managed so that biodiversity, which is largely linked to the forest, is preserved. Furthermore, the consideration of other goods produced in forest areas, which do not always have a market price, such as recreational opportunities, mushrooms and berries is taken care of. This has a great practical impact on the operating methods and costs of producing wood. The role of forests in the large climate context has also become a relevant issue in that growing forests bind the greenhouse gas CO 2, while the use of wood for fuel and materials does not add new greenhouse gases to the climate system.
At the same time, the price of wood has fallen from the post-war high levels. World trade in timber has increased, partly due to cheaper transport. Plantation forests in other parts of the world have created the basis for both local industry and export of timber. The opening to Eastern Europe led to increased access of timber from there. The competitive situation for forestry has therefore changed dramatically since the end of the 20th century. Nevertheless, just over 6,000 people stated in 2018 that they were working in forestry or with services oriented towards this industry. The forest-based industry comprised 15,700 man-years. Wood processing companies, which produce wood pulp, cellulose, paper and cardboard, had 2,700 jobs. The remaining 13,000 worked at sawmills or in timber companies.