Forest Economics

Forest America

Forest Economics

Forests provide immense economic benefits in the form of jobs, renewable energy, and outdoor recreation.

craftsman polishing wooden board with grinding instrument
Photo by Ono Kosuki on
person using chainsaw
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Millions of jobs, billions of dollars.

  • Jobs — 2.4 million jobs
  • Wages — $87 billion in payroll
  • Sales — $223 billion in sales
  • Industry — 5.7 percent of all U.S. manufacturing
  • GDP — $101 billion
  • Revenues — $110 billion from fishing & hunting

How we manage our working forests is a key factor to America’s economic success

The U.S. forest products industry produces $200 billion in annual sales and employs about one million workers. The forest products industry also is the leading generator and user of renewable energy. Not only is the forest industry important to the U.S. economy, but forest recreation also generates significant revenue in rural towns and states. Spending on hunting, fishing, and wildlife-watching generates $110.6 billion.

There are 12.5 million hunters, 30 million anglers, and 71 million wildlife-watchers in the United States.  More than half of all hunters (57%) hunt only on private lands, while 24% hunt on both private and public lands.

Want More Forests? Use More Wood

No matter where you are at this moment, chances are there’s a product made with wood within your reach. Wood products make up 47% of raw materials used in manufacturing in the United States, and that’s a good thing. Wood is renewable, beautiful and durable, and its production has significantly less impact on the environment than most other materials.

Buying consumer and commercial products from U.S. working forests helps to sustain the economic vitality of the private landowner community. That vitality ultimately ensures healthy working forests and their sustainability for future generations.

Wood Products Are Everywhere

In the food you eat, in your toothpaste, and even in your clothing. Surprised? Don’t be. We’re all familiar with forest products like lumber, furniture, and paper. But few of us realize how many different things we regularly use that are manufactured from trees. In fact, more than 5,000 wood and paper products make our lives better each day.

Private working forests are the quintessential example of sustainability and renewability. But their balance of economic and environmental productivity is not guaranteed; it depends in large part on the stewardship practices of forest landowners. This stewardship can occur only when forest landowners can access markets for wood products and earn enough money to stay in forestry.

The real threats to forests in the U.S. are market constraints.

Private landowners play a key role in sustainable forest management – along with the creation of jobs and economic vitality. These also depend on healthy markets for forest products. Forest product markets ensure that landowners have an incentive to keep their land forested and sustainably managed.

The public will continue to benefit from the environmental services forests provide – clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation, wood products, and those jobs that drive a vital economy – by continuing to make sure markets stay vibrant and healthy.

Strong markets for forests products enable us to grow more forests

  • The biggest threat to sustainability 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.
  • America’s growing timber stock – the volume of wood growing in in the United States – has doubled since 1953 while the forestland area has remained unchanged.

European policy leaders increasingly are reading news reports generated by environmental NGO’s that portray the use of wood for renewable energy markets as causing the misuse of forests in the US.  This has spawned the misperception overseas that “tens of millions of acres of natural forests in the southern United States have been destroyed to make way for fast-growing industrial tree plantations and that this practice has contributed to a well-documented, significant decline in hardwood wetland forests and the near disappearance of entire ecosystems, such as the long-leaf pine savannahs, which has brought countless species to the brink of extinction,” as one report suggested.

In fact, there are well-documented studies from the science community providing evidence that deforestation is not an issue in the United States.  The facts also show a history of maintaining forested acres in the US and increasing the growing volume in our forests in the face of a fast-growing population.  With nearly 50% of forests in the United States being owned and managed by non-industrial private forest landowners we can proudly say that private forests are a sustainability success story for the rest of the world to follow.

Due to these misconceptions spread by fear and not facts, policies are written by corporations and governments that have the potential impact of an unintended consequence of restricting markets for wood and thus putting into question the future ability of private forests landowners to manage forests.

Strong markets ensure healthy forests. Therefore we must work to achieve policies that address the concern of transparency in the global wood supply chain while also recognizing the framework of laws, regulations and Best Management Practices in the United States that have ensured the sustainability of our private working forests for nearly a century.