Two new studies* underscore an important positive relationship between privately owned forests and American society: the more wood we use, the more trees we grow.

Analysis by Forest2Market, a leading research organization specializing in using market and government data to identify significant trends, provides some illuminating insights:

  • Private forest owners grow 40% more wood than they harvest annually.
  • Annual timber harvest on private forests is less than 2.5% of the total inventory of growing trees.
  • Annual timber harvests support 2.4 million jobs and $99 billion in paychecks.

The benefits of sustainably managed private forests are self-evident but worth repeating. Growing more trees than we harvest means that our forests continue to provide clean water and air, species habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities and other benefits we all enjoy and sometimes take for granted. Supporting millions of good paying jobs means that families all over America are better off and communities – especially in rural areas – are thriving. And, considering the many things we use that come from these forests – from our homes to the screens on our cell phones (yes, those have wood in them too), all of us enjoy a better quality of life.

Our privately owned forests are an American success story. Considering that during the last century our nation experienced a more than three-fold increase in population, a seven-fold increase in home construction and a nine-fold increase in the production of pulp for paper, packaging and other consumer products, it is truly remarkable that our forests not only met this unprecedented demand but increased in total tree volume by over 50% in the process. Clearly society’s demands provide the incentive to continue investing in sustainable forestry.

This positive relationship provides an important reminder to policy makers who are sometimes told that using our forests to meet our nation’s needs, whether for more housing, more paper and packaging or more energy, will somehow deplete them. In fact just the opposite is true. If we want to have abundant, productive, life improving private forests in the future, the best thing we can do today is support existing and new opportunities to use them.

Bottom line: the more we use our forests the more we grow them and the better off we are. That is a good rule of thumb for anyone who cares about the future of privately owned forests.

Dave Tenny, NAFO President and CEO

*NAFO released United States Forest Inventory and Harvest Trends on Privately-Owned Timberlands and The Economic Impact of Privately-Owned Forests in the United States June 29, 2016. See NAFO’s news release for more information.