Strong markets for forests products enable us to grow more forests

  • The biggest threat to deforestation in the U.S. is the conversion of working forests to more economic, non-forest uses.
  • History demonstrates that as demand for forest products increases so does the volume of trees growing. Between 1953-2006,[1] the volume of trees per acre nationwide grew 49% and increased in all regions while consumption of forest products also increased.

Forests produce a variety of higher and lower value products. Forest owners manage their forests to sustain a full range of products over the long term. Forest owners do not use high value materials to serve low value markets.

  • Forests produce a wide range of products, from high-grade veneers and lumber to low-grade wood for paper and particle board.
  • To succeed economically, forest owners grow large trees over long periods to produce high-value products and replant after harvest.
  • Forest owners and mill owners work together to optimize the use of each tree. This reduces waste and provides both economic and environmental benefits.
  • Biomass used for energy production is one of the lowest value forest products. Biomass consists of smaller and inferior trees thinned from the forest along with tree limbs, tops and other debris from logging and milling. Forest owners and energy producers will not use high value large trees to produce energy.

Market opportunities enable landowners to invest in forest management practices that produce more forests and reasonably priced forest products.

  • History demonstrates that new markets create an incentive for forest owners to grow more trees, which helps keep the cost of trees and biomass reasonable in the long run.[2]
  • A recent study from two leading universities demonstrates that forest owners can sustainably increase biomass harvests from their forests by as much as 150% on planted forests and 75% on naturally growing forests as the market demand for biomass increases.[3]

Forest product markets change over time. Replacing declining markets with new markets is key to long-term forest conservation.

  • 100 years ago, many believed that pulp and paper production would decimate our forests. U.S. pulp mills in 1910 consumed 8 million tons of pulpwood for paper and paperboard. By 1965 that number increased to 135 million tons and, in 1994, it peaked at 265 million tons.[4]
  • During this same period, the number of standing trees in our forests grew, increasing by 50% in the past 50 years alone.
  • Pulp and paper production in the U.S. is declining, dropping nearly 10% from 1997 to 2008.[5]
  • New markets, such as renewable energy, help replace disappearing markets and provide new reasons to keep our forests growing sustainably for the long term.

Additional Resources

Update and Context for U.S. Wood Bioenergy Markets. B. Mendell and A. Hamsley Lang (June 2013)

Three Realities of Wood Bioenergy and Forest Owners. B. Mendell and A. Hamsley Lang (July 2010)

A Practical Guide for Tracking Wood-Using Bioenergy Markets. B. Mendell and A. Hamsley Lang (April 2010)

Estimated Wood-Use by Announced Facilities in the US

  1. Society of American Foresters, State of America’s Forests, 2007.
  2. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA (2007).
  3. A Developing Bioenergy Market and its Implications on Forests and Forest Products Markets in the United States: Economic Considerations. Dr. Clutter, et. al. (2010).
  4. Pulpwood and pulp: long-term history. Forest Landowner. Harris, T., S. Baldwin, B. Mendell (January/February 2005).
  5. Three Realities of Wood Bioenergy and Forest Owners. B. Mendell and A. Hamsley Lang (July 2010).