America’s Abundant Forests

America’s Abundant Forests

Q: Are America’s forests in danger???

A: Not at all. Because the United States practices reforestation, its forests have actually grown in size over the past century. About one-third of the United States — 747 million acres — is covered with trees. In fact, we have more trees today than we had 70 years ago. And some 4 million more are planted each day. On the nation’s commercial forests, net annual growth exceeds harvests and losses to insects and disease by an impressive 47 percent each year.

Q: How much forestland is actually used for producing timber?

A: 504 million acres of America’s forestland is classified as “timberland,” productive forests capable of growing 20 cubic feet of commercial wood per acre per year. But not all of that is used for timber production.

A portion of that is permanently managed for uses such as recreation, streamside protection, and wildlife. About 52 million acres of U.S. forestland – an area larger than the states of North and South Carolina combined- are set aside by law for non-timber uses, such as parks or wilderness areas. Of the 191 million acres of forestland contained within the National Forest System owned and managed by the federal government, only 49 million acres are available for forest management.

Q: Who owns the nation’s commercial forests?

A: Of the nation’s 504 million acres of timberlands, 146 million acres, or 29 percent, are owned by federal, state and local governments. Fifty-eight percent of these productive woodlands -some 291 million acres- are held by some 10 million individual private landowners. About 67 million acres, or 13 percent of the total commercial timberlands, are owned by the forest products industry.

Managing A Renewable Resource

Q: Why do forest landowners sometimes take all of the trees out of an area?

A: That harvesting system is called “clearcutting” – removing all of the trees from a stand rather than picking and choosing. When compared to other techniques, clearcutting is often the best method for environmental as well as economic reasons. Some seedlings won’t grow in shade, so removing all of the mature trees ensures that enough light can reach new seedlings. Sometimes something calamitous, like a fire or windstorm, a tree disease, or an insect epidemic, requires that damaged trees be removed so that new trees can get a fresh start. And clearcutting requires fewer roads, which minimizes the expense as well as the disturbance to the environment. In each case, the type of harvest method used is dictated by the type of tree being harvested, the soil and terrain, wildlife habitat and the conditions needed to start the next forest.

Q: Do timber companies replant when they cut?

A: Yes. Forest products companies are in the business of growing and harvesting trees, so reforestation is important to them. In fact, more than 91 percent of all trees planted in America during the turn of the 21st Century were planted by forest product companies and private timberland owners. And logging companies pay a special fee for replanting and reforestation when they buy the right to harvest timber on state or national forests.

In some regions of the country, nature itself replants very efficiently. Throughout the Northeast and Lake States for example, foresters often manage harvested areas to promote natural regrowth from sprouting and seeds.

Q: How many trees are planted each year?

A: In 1999, the forestry community planted some 1.7 billion trees in the United States. That’s an average of more than 4 million new trees planted every day – more than 5 new trees a year for every man, woman and child in America.

Caring For The Environment

Q: What is the forest products industry doing to protect environmental quality?

A: The nation’s forest products companies announced their continued commitment to the goal of sustainable forestry through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) Program. Developed by professional foresters, conservationists and scientists, the SFI sm Program combines the perpetual growing and harvesting of trees with the long-term protection of wildlife, plants, soil and water quality. There are currently 107.8 million acres of forestland in North America enrolled in the SFI program, making it North America’s largest sustainable forestry program and among the largest in the world. As a testament to the forest products industry’s strong commitment to the goal of sustainable forestry, participation in the SFI program is a condition of membership in the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) — the national trade association for the forest products and paper industry. 

Q: Are there environmental advantages to using wood products?

A: Yes. Trees are a renewable resource. Most alternative materials come from nonrenewable resources, such as the petrochemicals used in making plastics and the ores used to make aluminum, iron and other metals.

Wood is also the most energy-efficient building material available today. When you compare the total energy costs of different kinds of building material – including the cost to acquire the raw material, transport it, process it into a useful product and then actually use it – wood far outshines its competitors. Steel wall studs require almost 9 times more energy to produce than do wood studs. A brick veneer wall requires 22 times more energy than wood siding, while aluminum siding requires 21 times more energy to produce than does an equivalent wood floor. In addition, forest products are recyclable and biodegradable.

Forest Products Facts

Q: How many people are employed in forestry and in the forest products industry? 

A: Forestry is much more than just logging. About 1.7 million people are directly employed in the planting, growing, managing and harvesting of trees and production of wood and paper products in all 50 states. As many as ten people are involved in the harvesting and milling of one tree.

The forest industry ranks among the top ten manufacturing employers in 42 states, with an annual payroll of about $51 billion. That figures counts only those people directly engaged in the industry, not the many more who indirectly make their living from forest management and forest products.

Q: How many trees does the average American use each year? 

A: Each person uses wood and paper products equivalent to what can be produced from one 18 inch in diameter 100 foot tree every year. And each year, the nation plants more than 5 new trees for each American.

Q: How much wood goes into building our homes?

A: Over 90 percent of all homes in the United States are built with wood-framed walls and roofs. The average single family American home (2,190 square feet) can contain 14,200 board feet of lumber and up to 14,000 square feet of panel products. That includes wood products ranging from structural beams and flooring to the sheathing, trim and panelling. Homebuilding, remodeling and home improvements are collectively the largest single use of lumber and wood products, accounting for about two-thirds of domestic wood-product consumption.

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