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Forest Facts

The 1900s have been particularly impressive years for our forests. Today, the U.S. has about the same amount of forestland as it did in 1920, despite a 165 percent increase in population. Forest growth has continually exceeded harvest since the 1940s, and today, growth exceeds harvest by 47 percent.

Improved forest protection has also made an important contribution to the abundance of forests. In the early 1900s, approximately 20 to 50 million acres were lost to forest fires each year. Today, wildfire losses have been reduced by 86 percent to between 2 and 7 million acres annually with the majority of the losses occurring on federally owned forestlands.

Wood-use efficiency has improved dramatically since 1900. Sawmills today can produce more than twice the amount of usable lumber and other products per log than they could at the turn of the century. Since 1950, there has been a 40 percent increase in industrial product output per unit of round-wood input, resulting primarily from computerized sawing, development of engineered composite wood products, and recycling.

A forested area is classified as "forestland" if it is at least 1 acre in size and contains 10 percent tree cover. In the United States, forestlands can be found in every region and state. One-third of the U.S. - 747 million acres - is forestland.

Most trees in the United States are referred to as either "hardwoods" or "softwoods." Hardwood trees are deciduous trees that, with a few exceptions, lose their leaves in the fall or winter. Softwood forest types, which represent 45 percent of U.S. timberland, are conifers and evergreens such as pines, spruces, firs, and junipers.

Who plants America's trees?

  • Government: 9%
  • Forest Industry: 43%
  • Non-Industrial Private: 48%
  • Total: 2,663,569 acres

Foresters typically use two forms of measurement to estimate the growth and harvest volume of trees: cubic feet and board feet. A board foot is defined as a basic measurement of wood usually expressed in nominal sizes equal to 12" by 12" by 1". Log volume is commonly measured in board foot log scale using any one of several log rules, although yields and overruns vary, 1 MBF Scribner rule is roughly equivalent to 1.5 MBF lumber tally.

In 1996, our nation's timberlands achieved a net annual growth of more than 23.5 billion cubic feet of timber. When compared to an annual timber harvest of approximately 16.0 billion cubic feet, net growth is surpassing harvest by 47 percent.

Along with the growth to harvest ratio, foresters look at long term growing stock trends as a measure of sustainability. From 1953 to 1997, the net volume of growing stock inventory increased 36 percent in the U.S. The greatest gain occurred in the North where the net growing stock inventory more than doubled (107 percent increase), followed by the South (73 percent increase). This practice of disciplined conservation (growing more volume than is needed) is the basis of producing sustainable and biological diverse forests for future generations.

Fortunately, the United States has some of the best tree-growing land to be found anywhere in the world. On a per-acre basis, net annual growth in the United States is 47 cubic feet compared with 37 cubic feet in Canada and just 19 cubic feet in Russia.

Forests constitute an energy system that is an important source of oxygen. To grow a pound of wood, a tree consumes about 1.47 pounds of carbon dioxide and releases approximately 1.07 pounds of oxygen. Realistically, an acre of trees could be expected to grow 4,000 pounds of wood per year. In the process, 5,800 pounds of carbon dioxide would be consumed, and 4,280 pounds of oxygen would be produced.

The use of domestically supplied wood contributes to the cycle of regenerating young, healthy forests. Actively managed and growing forests are excellent carbon "sinks." Currently, growth on industrial and privately owned lands removes far more carbon dioxide than the forest industry generates in manufacturing. And, growth in all managed U.S. forests removes approximately 17 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Forest fact information provided by WD Flooring.

Source: U.S. Forests Facts and Figures, 2001

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