In a letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Friday, the National Association of State Foresters urged the Trump administration to prioritize Chinese removal of retaliatory timber tariffs.
In it, the association’s president, South Dakota State Forester Greg Josten, explains the connection between healthy forests and wood markets, the current state of these markets, and what is likely to occur if retaliatory Chinese tariffs permanently disrupt existing export markets for U.S. timber.
All wood markets, including foreign markets for U.S. wood, allow Americans to generate the revenue necessary for retaining ownership of their land, keeping it forested, and managing it in ways that ensure long-term productivity and health. To put it simply: Markets for wood are critical to maintaining the health, resilience, and productivity of forests in the United States.
Americans depend on healthy forests to filter their drinking water and provide wood to build their homes. Privately owned forests constitute the majority of the nation’s forests. These forests produce over 90% of our domestically produced forest products and provide over 30% of our drinking water. Most of the hardwood lumber produced in the U.S. is grown on private forestland; 24% is exported to China and 22% is exported to other countries. When forestland owners and managers have access to robust wood markets, all Americans benefit.
The retaliatory Chinese tariffs targeting U.S. timber exports threaten to permanently disrupt existing export markets for U.S. timber. In the 1990s, we watched as market capacity diminished in the western U.S. as a result of litigation related to the Spotted Owl. Forest products markets for wood in the West still haven’t returned, and they may never return, as a direct result.
Right now, we are seeing an acute decline in market capacity nationwide due to mill closures caused by the Chinese retaliatory tariffs. America’s wood products manufacturing sector is in danger of significant and permanent loss.
These Chinese retaliatory tariffs are having a profound negative effect on the timber industry and rural prosperity across the country. Already, thousands of men and women have lost their jobs in mills and logging, and the livelihoods of millions more tied to the timber industry hang in the balance.
If we lose any wood markets, we will see less active forest management. And without active forest management, there will be more catastrophic wildfires and more economically depressed rural communities.
The Chinese have already begun sourcing timber from new market sources. It is imperative that these retaliatory timber tariffs are removed as expeditiously as possible to regain American market share in China and retain what domestic industry capacity is left for the benefit of our forests and the American people.
We ask that you consider our concerns and do what is in this administration’s power to do.
Have questions? Contact NASF Communications Director Whitney Forman-Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org.