Survey Data: H-2B Forest Sector Impacts

The Catastrophic Cost of the H-2B Guest Worker Ban for Rural Economies and Forests


Presidential Proclamation 10014 and its subsequent amendment bans nonimmigrant H-2B guest workers from entering the United States through December 31, 2020. The ban includes forestry and conservation workers who are essential to sustainable forest management and the operation of the forest sector which was designated as “Critical Infrastructure” by the Department of Homeland Security at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The forest sector relies on H-2B workers to collect seeds and sow them at nurseries, plant trees, perform wildfire fuel reduction treatments, manage forest vegetation, and other forest management manual labor.  Work by H-2B workers is critical to long-term forest sustainability, rural economies, production of domestic wood supply and manufacturing of everyday products.

We urge the State Department to add forestry related services to the National Interest  Exceptions to the Presidential Proclamation suspending the entry of nonimmigrants to the United States.


Note: The following quantifies how the H-2B Guest Worker Ban will impact the forestry sector.  Data reflected the findings of three independent surveys of contractors and forest landowners conducted from July 15-17, 2020 by the Forest Resources Association, the Forest Landowners Association, and the National Alliance of Forest Owners. Multiple data sets were used to confirm findings and the data represented here does not include duplicates. 



  • American companies and rural communities will take an economic hit estimated to total $725 million. That includes the sunk cost of seedlings, cancelled contracts, and increased costs for future forest management operations when work resumes. It does not include the incalculable loss of billions of dollars in forestland value when a year’s worth of timber growth is lost.
  • Seedlings will go unplanted and die. Nearly all replanting work in the U.S. is done by H-2B workers. H-2B forestry workers plant about 1.55 billion tree seedlings on 2.2 million acres of forestland in the United States each year. If forestry is not granted an exemption allowing H-2B workers to begin this critical work in the next 60 days, an estimated 1.6 million acres of forestland could go unplanted and 1.12 billion seedlings could die at a direct cost of $336 million.
  • Nearly 50% of planned critical forestry work will not happen. Forty-five percent of respondents reported that they will not be able to do any of their planned forestry work. An additional 29% indicated that they would be able to do less than 50% of their planned forestry work.
  • Costs will increase when work can resume. Deferring or cancelling forestry work through December will cause an estimated $109 million in increased costs to forest management operations. These costs will be borne by government agencies, institutional landowners, and family forest landowners whose small businesses are already suffering during the pandemic.
  • Labor for these jobs is extremely scarce or non-existent without the H-2B option. Of the 6,350 jobs advertised in FY2020, only 123, or 1.9% of the labor needs of the sector, were filled by local workers.
  • Americans’ jobs depend on the work done by these guest workers. Each H-2B worker supports 4.5 American jobs. Privately owned working forests support 2.5 million American jobs.