The first sawmill was built by the US Government. It ran intermittently from 1860 until it was replaced in 1891. The mill, at this time, operated primarily to provide lumber for homes on the reservation.
The mill burned in 1911. Lumber produced up until this point in time was used exclusively for the reservation
The market for tribal lumber expanded to railroad contractors. Lumber was harvested for railroad ties as companies built railroads up the Deschutes.
Two mills were built on the reservation - the HeHe Butte mill and the Seeksequa mill. Horses were still used for logging at this time so both mills were built next to the harvest areas. Operation for both was intermittent and both were sold at auction in 1942.
A drought in the 1020/30's led to forest disease and fire problems. Western pine beetle attacks reached epidemic proportions in the 30's. There was a 100,000+ acre fire in 1938.
The first contract was auctioned in 1923 and bought by Seattle speculators. No timber was cut and a judgment was awarded to the tribes.
The sale of the Schoolie Unit led to the establishment of the Warm Springs Lumber Company mill in Warm Springs. This mill was privately, not tribally, owned. Another sale soon led to the construction of the Dahl Pine mill inside the northern reservation boundary. As timber sales progressed into fir areas in the fifties, local lumbermen built the Jefferson Plywood mill in Madras.
As harvesting moved into fir areas and the second cutting cycle for pine began, extensive forest management gave way to intensive management.
Early logging, until the mid-1950's, chiefly involved meeting the annual timer harvest specified in the Schoolie, Whitewater, and Simnasho contracts. Logging in the late fifties and sixties was dominated by utilization and sanitation-salvage cuts. Foresters were able to meet the allowable annual cut by covering as much of the pine area as possible to harvest high-risk and dying timber.
During the years between 1960 and 1980, forest management faced many challenges. These challenges involved road conditions, reforestation, budget, silvicultural prescriptions, environmental concerns, and harvest activities. The 1970's brought increased funding with resulting increases in numbers of forestry personnel. These increases led to a higher intensity of forest management with more successful tree planting, thinning, and site preparation, smaller sales with more precise prescriptions, and advanced/comprehensive inventory system, erosion control, and more intense sale administration. Other advances during this period were an increase in fire management activities, improved forest protection including control of the spruce budworm buildup and greatly improved detection and disease control action plans (prescriptions), greatly accelerated forest development (including brush control), changing stand compositions to control disease, and tree improvement projects for increased growth, disease resistance, and improved form and word quality.
In the interest of recovering the profit from lumber manufacturing and sales and securing future tribal employment opportunities, The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs purchased the Jefferson Plywood Corporation (had absorbed the Warm Springs Lumber Company) and made the corporation a separate CTWS enterprise. WSFPI then signed a 20-year contract to log the full annual allowable cut.
The dispute over the northern reservation boundary was resolved in 1972 with the ownership of the McQuinn Strip reverting to the CTWS. This increased the annual harvest of timber by 20 million board feet. One of the provisions of the Act was that all timber sales until 1992 would be offered to private enterprises on the open market through competitive, oral auction bidding. The tribe itself could not participate in the bidding/purchase of any timber from the McQuinn Strip during this time.
These funds were designated and made available to the Tribes for intensive forest management activities
"Add-on" funds intended to eliminate the thinning and planting backlog on Indian lands by 1987.
The Warm Springs Forest Products plywood plant was closed and the mill was remodeled to handle smaller logs with metric dimensions for sale of timber products to Japan.
Vanport International, Inc., specialists in sawmilling and international marketing, were hired to manage WSFPI.
Warm Springs Forest Products Industries board and management have presented the Tribal Council with three alternative plans for the future of the mill. The three options include closure of the mill and sale of all future timber to mills off the reservation; downsizing of the mill from 120 workers to 80 and operating the mill at 60% of one shift; and transforming the mill into an efficient operation (which would require stopping the mill operation for two years during the remodel).