Forest inventory in US South has more than doubled since 1953 in response to increased demand for forest products. When demand occurs, earlier by the timber industry and later also by the energy industry, the private forest owners reacts by investing in managing their forests and harvest their products. It is not the area of forest that is growing it is mainly the productivity in the forestry, because of improved management. This is presented in a new report by global wood supply chain experts Forest2Market.
“Unfortunately, much of the discourse about the forest products industry’s impact on forests and carbon has focused on only one side of the story: harvesting trees,” says the report’s lead analyst and author, Hannah Jefferies. “This ignores one of the most basic tenets of forestry: grow trees.”
The report, Historical Perspective on the Relationship between Demand and Forest Productivity in the US South, analyzes US Forest Service data and other scientific research to understand the relationship between changes in demand and supply from 1953 to 2015. Key findings of the report include:
Rising demand for forest products increased removals from timberlands.
Annual timber removals nearly doubled by 1996, and were 57 percent higher in 2015 than they were in 1953. The forest products industry and landowners responded by increasing the productivity of their forests. To ensure their mills would have a stable, high-quality source of supply, forest products companies invested heavily in research to promote forest productivity by improving forest management practices. The result was a 112 percent increase in total annual timberland growth between 1953 and 2015.
Increased demand has not depleted forests.
The number of timberland acres has remained stable, increasing by about 3 percent. At the same time, total inventory has doubled (+108 percent, from 142.1 to 296.1 billion cubic feet) because growth has outpaced removals.
Urbanization, not increased demand for forest products, is the biggest threat to forests in the United States.
Between 1982 and 2012, development was responsible for almost half (49.2 percent or 17.7 million acres) of all forestland that converted to other uses in the United States. By contrast, only 1.2 percent (0.5 million acres) of land that converted to forests during this period was previously developed.
“The report shows that demand for forest products has been, and will continue to be, a protective factor for the South’s forests as the region faces increasing pressures from urbanization,” said says the report’s lead analyst and author, Hannah Jefferies.
“As long as there is demand for forest products, the forest products industry and the landowners who supply the industry will have vested interests in maintaining productive and sustainable forests, as has clearly been the case over the last six decades. Rather than targeting these industries for sustainably harvesting—and regrowing—trees, activist organizations should cooperate with industry partners to control urban sprawl, which is the irreversible threat now facing the South’s forests.”
The report, commissioned by Drax Group, plc, National Alliance of Forest Owners and US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, is available on Forest2Market’s website: At a Glance (7 pages), Executive Summary (26 pages) and full report (104 pages). Publication date is July 26 2017.