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Forest Facts

  • The average tree takes in 1.4 pounds of carbon dioxide and gives off a pound of oxygen for every pound of wood grown. Carbon is stored in wood. That means the tree will trap this carbon until it burns or decays.
  • The United States has 738 million acres of forestland.
  • Total Forest Growth exceeds the amount harvested each year since the 1940's
  • Annual hardwood growth rate surpasses harvest by 70 percent.
  • Each year 1.7 billion trees are planted in the United States - more than five trees for every man, woman and child in America - an average of 4.8 million seedlings each day.
  • Scientists estimate lumber manufacturing consumes just 4% of the energy used by all raw materials manufacturers. Steel and concrete manufacturers consume 56%. A steel stud requires 21 times as much energy to produce and releases 15 times the sulfur dioxide as a wood 2x4. Producing concrete emits up to 3 times more carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon that lumber production.

How are hardwood forests in the United States doing today?
We are growing far more hardwoods each year than are harvested and lost to fire, insect and disease. In fact, if hardwood trees stopped growing today, and harvesting continued at the same rate, our hardwood timber supply would last over 75 years.

What is biodiversity and how can we protect it?
Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability among living organisms and the ecosystems in which they occur.

Forest management enhances biodiversity after harvest, while providing a mosaic of forest types and age classes across the landscape, and benefiting a broader range of plants and animals than does any single habitat type – including old-growth forests.

Conserving and enhancing biological diversity is an integral part of natural resource management…including timber harvesting and food production.

Where are America’s trees, and who owns them?
Forests cover about one-third of all land in the United States. The Pacific Northwest is home to some of our oldest forests, while hardwood forests are most abundant east of the Mississippi River.

More than 58 percent of America’s timberland is owned by non-industrial private landowners. Twenty seven percent of the timberland consists of public lands and national forests, while 14 percent is owned by the forest industry.

What is the difference between a national park and a national forest?
The U.S. National Park System (83 million acres) preserves natural features, exceptional beauty and areas of historical interest. It includes battlefields, lakeshores, memorials, monuments, preserves, recreation areas, scenic trails and wild and scenic rivers. Unlike national forests, national parks do not allow any timber harvesting or hunting.

The National Forest System (191 million acres) was established “…to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States…” and to improve and protect the forest, securing favorable conditions of water-flows. Twenty-five percent of the gross receipts from timber sales by the National Forest System go directly to states for county roads and schools, which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

What is sustainable forest management?
Sustainable forest management involves managing forests for their multiple benefits today, without depleting future generations’ ability to manage the forests for their needs. Over the long term, we should harvest no more than what the forest grows, nor degrade the forest’s capability for growth.

Timber is not the only component of sustainable forest management. We must also sustain biodiversity, production of clean air and clean water, wildlife habitat and the other benefits.

Have North American forests been managed using sustainable methods?
The United States still has 70% of the forest land it had in pre-colonial times. The decline in U.S. forest land area stabilized shortly after 1900, following the end of widespread agricultural clearing, and has remained relatively constant since. The volume of standing growing stock and saw timber can only increase when we harvest less timber than is available for harvest. Thus, for the past 50 years, North America’s timber resource has been managed by sustainable methods.

Can foresters and industry be trusted to use sustained yield?
Foresters determine when and how trees should be harvested, ensuring that forests are healthy and productive. The industry is committed to sustainable forest management and follows the guidelines and standards of the American Forest & Paper Association’s Sustainable Forestry InitiativeSM and the National Hardwood Lumber Association’s Sustainable Forest Policy.

The industry continues to improve yields of the finished products from each tree, and to invest in forestry and genetic research, which ensures that industry lands will be even more productive in the future.

How important is the forest products industry to the United States?
In the United States, forest products companies employ 1.75 million people and are ranked among the top ten employers in 40 states.

Also, the average single-family home contains over 13,000 board feet of lumber, and 94 percent of all new homes are built with wood frames.

Is wood an environmentally sensitive building material?
Wood is recyclable, biodegradable and durable – sometimes lasting for centuries. When it is no longer needed, it can be returned to the earth and renewed for future generations. Resources such as iron ore, coal and limestone, once removed, are gone forever.

Wood is a more efficient insulator, requires less energy, less clean water, and creates less carbon dioxide than manufactured steel.