By Russell Bozeman, Mississippi State Forester and Chair of the National Association of State Foresters’ Forest Markets Committee
In honor of National Forest Products Week, we’ve been celebrating the value of forest products and their contributions to society. Since 1960, the week-long celebration (beginning on the third Sunday of October) has been observed across the nation. President Dwight Eisenhower was the first U.S. president to recognize this week and every president since (including President Joe Biden) has followed suit.
Why Use Forest Products?
From the cardboard boxes used to ship online orders across the world, to the cellulose found in everything from smartphones to toothpaste, forest products are used every day by everyone. What’s more, forest-derived goods are an environmentally friendly choice. They’re less carbon-intensive to produce than other commonly utilized materials like plastic, concrete and steel, and all of the carbon stored in wood products (like paper, pallets, and lumber used in building construction) remains sequestered throughout the product’s lifetime.
How Do Forest Products Benefit Consumers?
The forest products industry contributes billions of dollars to the U.S. economy annually and constitutes 5% of the U.S. manufacturing GDP. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, the forestry and forest products industries in the U.S. directly employ upwards of 925,000 people, making this sector among the top 10 manufacturing employers in 43 states. More than 75% of all U.S. pulp and paper mills are in counties that are more than 80% rural.
In my home state of Mississippi, forestlands represent over 62% of the total land base totaling 19.2 million acres, and 89% of these forestlands are privately owned. Timber is the state’s third most valuable agricultural crop, contributing $13 billion to the state’s economy and directly employing over 61,000 people with an annual payroll of $1.1 billion. In addition to benefiting the state’s economy, forests and trees provide human health benefits, carbon sequestration, ecosystem services and recreational opportunities. Healthy forests truly make for healthy lives.
Who is Leading the Way?
Since its start in 1920, the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) has served as a leading authority on forest management in the United States. NASF’s membership is composed of the directors of forestry agencies in the 50 states, five U.S. territories, three nations in compacts of free association with the U.S., and the District of Columbia. Through the State Foresters who comprise its membership, the association advocates for federal legislation and national policies that promote the health, resilience and productivity of both rural and urban forests. Learn more about NASF’s policies.
Celebrating New Uses of Wood
NASF believes that the research and development of new markets for wood fiber is critical on a myriad of fronts. Having highly diverse markets increases the options for management by allowing landowners to harvest trees of a certain size and/or species under plans that are more likely to result in improved health and vigor of remaining trees.
Keeping forestland as working forests is paramount to the ability of our forests to provide the economic, environmental and social benefits that are essential to society. To retain and properly care for their forests, landowners need sources of revenue. Though forests can provide other forms of economic return – such as from recreation, appreciated land values and ecosystem services – harvesting trees for wood products is the predominate source of revenue for forest owners. In turn, the revenue generated is often re-invested in the forest. The forest products market is the economic foundation for many rural communities.
NASF recently updated our policy statement on Emerging Markets for Wood and Their Positive Impact on Forest Resource Management. NASF believes it is important to support the research and development of new markets for wood fiber. Having highly diverse markets increases landowners’ management options to improve the health and vigor of their forests. There are many new uses of wood being developed that can enhance forest markets in numerous regions throughout the United States. These new uses include wood pellets for energy production, cellulosic biofuels to produce gasoline and jet fuel, biochar for storing carbon and enhancing soil properties, mass timber for building construction, sustainable packaging that replaces single-use plastic – the list goes on!
State Forestry Agencies
State forestry agencies are the primary delivery system for forest management activities nationwide. They conserve, enhance, and protect state and private forests, which encompass nearly two-thirds of the nation’s forests, and are responsible for wildfire protection on more than 1.5 billion acres. Learn more about NASF’s membership in the latest state forestry agency statistics survey.
You can celebrate National Forest Products Week by learning more about the climate benefits of wood products and active forest management, getting to know just how many products you use that come from our forests, or by visiting a local, state or national forest.
To learn more about what your state is doing to actively manage healthy forests near you, contact your state forestry agency.