National Forest Products Week: A reminder of the resource that makes it possible

As we celebrate National Forest Products Week, private family forest landowners, in the midst a thriving economy, it’s important to recognize the family forest landowners and their contributions to the our industry.

We commend President Trump for recognizing in the White House Proclamation that the forest products that improve our lives all rely on the sustainable and renewable resource of timber and wood fiber. And that this resource would not exist if not for the millions of family forests owners who invest their money into producing the world’s most sustainable and bountiful timber.

Any narrative that family forest lands are not being managed sustainably or are disappearing at an alarming rate is just not true.  Least of all when considering the family forests managed specifically for timber markets.  According to the USDA, from 1953 to 2011, in a time of expanding population and increasing demand for homes, paper products, and energy, the total volume of trees grown in the U.S. increased by 50%. Today, private forest owners are growing 40% more wood than they remove.  Still, challenges remain for these family forest landowners who supply the resources that we celebrate this week.  We believe that something is broken when there are historical highs in lumber prices, and in many parts of the country historic lows in U.S. timber prices.  Access to good healthy markets for the products that landowners produce, rewarding them for decades of investment and stewardship is the challenge.

Forest management certification, for example, is often championed as a solution to this false narrative about the sustainability of our private forests, but in many cases certification is a solution looking for a problem.   Although certification requirements for timber producers can serve a valuable purpose for corporate landowners it is not necessary for family-owned forests and imposes costs to the landowner at times when their margins are already weak.  The country is blessed with an abundant supply of timber and family landowners who are willing to make long-term investments in continuing to provide that supply.  The bottom line is that the facts do not support a sustainability problem.

Forest landowners need markets, not a layer of extra costs

Private forest landowners are carrying on a legacy of economic and environmental benefits that our nation has enjoyed for nearly a century. However, the benefits generated by a productive forest are threatened today more than ever because of historically depressed markets. Weak markets are the primary factor that contributes to the loss of productive forest lands.

When you already have an overabundance of timber supply, resulting in timber prices at an all-time low for the last 50 years, adding a layer of extra costs and management to a family forest landowner increases the risk of consolidation, conversion of forestland to other uses, and ultimately a loss of our diverse southern forest landscape.

Owning and managing forests is not a business everyone easily understands, but its benefits touch us all. With a little help from our government and end-users to promote the health and sustainability of true working forests, family forests owners will proudly continue to provide economic and environmental benefits.

However, if our government, NGOs, and corporations fail to fully understand the current scope of the forests that deliver wood supplies and environmental benefits on a daily basis, then we will inevitably be sending family forest owners to further financial hardships. The result will be a loss of our diverse forest landscape, our forestry heritage, and all the benefits that family forest owners provide our society, including the ones being celebrated during National Forest Products Week.

Sustainable forests reap more public benefits than the private landowners sow

So, as we celebrate National Forest Products Week amid this strong economy, let’s take note of the many products made from trees and the millions of private family forest stewards who have managed their land sustainably to make those products possible.

With free and open markets and fair regulatory policy both here and abroad, private forest landowners will proudly continue to provide these benefits for another century. Buy wood, you will not only support the manufacturing industry but also the private landowner who is providing numerous benefits with the timber products they produce.

 

Want to help combat the misperceptions about forest landowners’ management and sustainability practices?

To celebrate National Forest Products Week, we created a letter template for you to personalize and send to your local newspaper. Click the link below to see our template, personalize the letter to tell your story, and send it to your favorite local newspapers!

National Forest Products Week: Letter to the Editor