Revised April 2022
Natural and managed forests are one of the most important components of the Earth’s living and climatic systems. Around the world, forestry and the forest-products industry are of major economic importance to rural livelihoods
Forestry is the means by which trees can be produced as a renewable resource for wood or biomass for direct timber sales, production of trees for ornamental plantings or woody material for composite products or for use as a combustion energy source. Integrated into forest management plans may be other resource-management and asset-generation or asset-recovery options. These may involve revenue generation from hunting lease sales, government-sponsored conservation programs, tourism from winter sports access, syrup or mushroom production for food products, educational activities and other strategies.
The United States contains roughly 750 million acres of forested land, and almost 430 million acres, or 60 percent, of that land is privately owned. Those privately owned forests supply over 90 percent of the wood harvested in the United States for the construction of homes and the manufacturing of furniture, paper and other wood products. Federal forests supply only 2 percent of the wood used by the forest products industry.
The sale of U.S. forest products (not including Christmas trees and maple products) and the number of farms selling them increased between 2002 and 2007. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture (2009), over $595 million of forest products were sold from 47,603 farms. The top five producing states that year were Georgia, $53.6 million; Alabama, $44.2 million; Mississippi, $40.3 million; South Carolina, $27.5 million; and North Carolina, $25.1 million.
Forest resources, tree plantations and similar ecosystems usually are managed using scientific techniques. To re-forest a natural area or establish a plantation, selection of species and subspecies varieties, either in “pure” single species stands or mixed-species systems, means selecting genetic stock with the proper microclimatic adaptation and disease resistance. Then the forester must employ skill in the proper handling of seedlings, stand establishment and protection, and management practices that include pruning and thinning, controlled burns and managed extraction of the desired biomass of timber. A number of trade organizations, state and federal government agencies, university extension researchers and private consultants are available to assist with program planning and problem solving.
Management and preservation are important issues regarding America’s forest systems. Forestry is an arena of applied scientific analysis, field-craft technique, satellite telemetry and related environmental monitoring. A related science of managing trees, whether propagating them, managing disease outbreaks or designing plantations, is called silviculture. Silvicultural management once primarily concerned itself only with board feet of pulp wood for paper production or harvestable saw logs for lumber. Today silvicultural forestry must encompass renewability issues, watershed management, recreational and wildlife management issues, and community and natural area aesthetics. Today’s trained forester is an educated environmental scientist trained in botany, plant genetics, climatology, entomology, hydrology and soil science, as well as having interdisciplinary skills that usually encompass complex systems management and socio-political environmental studies.
The importance of the sustainability of these resources and the human and non-human communities depending on them have overriding economic, environmental and social implications. For this reason, most forestry production is highly regulated and management programs should be carefully constructed. In many cases, also an integral part of any operation are the stewardship regulations and programs that stress third-party certification systems that provide independent verification of sound management practices.
Recently, environmental scientists have recognized that all forests, including the treed and treeless boreal tundra, are fantastically huge reservoirs of sequestered carbon. This carbon predominantly is in the form of cellulose-comprised living or dead plant material. When liberated, through direct human activity, global warming (permafrost elimination) or natural processes (forest or range fires, biological activity), it becomes atmospheric carbon-dioxide gas. The release of this naturally “locked-up” carbon is viewed by some authorities to be a potentially catastrophic contributor to global warming. Concerns over sequestered and liberated carbon are increasingly carried over to the arenas of wood use and tree growth, whether biomass utilization for power generation, wood-waste disposal, forest or plantation stand management or the pro and cons of carbon tax credits.
The United States exported $7.8 billion of forest products in 2011. The major categories of forest products exported that year included softwood logs ($1.5 billion), hardwood lumber ($1.4 billion), softwood lumber ($973 million) and hardwood logs ($638 million). Canada was the largest buyer of U.S. forest products, purchasing $2.26 billion. China, Japan and Mexico are also major buyers of U.S. forest products.
In 2011 the United States imported forest products valued at $10.8 billion. Nearly $3.0 billion of softwood lumber was imported, $1.2 billion of builders carpentry and nearly $1.2 million of hardwood plywood. Canada was the leading supplier, providing forestry products valued at $5.1 billion. China and Brazil were the second and third largest suppliers of forestry products for the United States.
According to the Forest Service's Forest Products Laboratory, lumber production began a downward trend in the mid 2000s. In 2004, the production of hardwood lumber peaked at 69,187 thousand cubic feet, and a year later, production of softwood lumber peaked at 27,562 thousand cubic feet. They speculate that this downward trend in lumber production reflects the recent economic downturn, and once economic conditions have improved, lumber production will again increase.
- Forest Landowners Association, Inc. - The members of this organization are independent forest landowners who operate more than 37 million acres of timberland in 47 states. The organization offers all types of property insurance at group rates.
- National Association of State Foresters - Each state employs a state forester who oversees and manages the forests on state and privately owned lands in their state.
- National Visitor Use Monitoring Survey, Forest Service, USDA, 2012 - This survey provides estimates of the number of recreational visits to each national forest and describes a number of important characteristics of those visits.
- National Woodland Owners Association - This nationwide organization is made up of non-industrial private woodland owners. They provide group rates for woodland and for hunting lease liability insurance. They also provide a limited directory of national private hunting lands.
- U.S. Forest Products Annual Market Review and Prospects, 2005–2009, Forest Products Laboratory, Forest Service, USDA, 2007.
- Family Forestry, New York Times, 2007 - Discusses the future of large tracts of private forest that are about to change hands as aging landowners pass the land to heirs or buyers.
- Forest Products Laboratory, Forest Service, USDA.
- Forestry, National Ag Compliance Assistance Center, U.S. EPA.
- Sales of Forest Products, Income from Farm-Related Sources: 2007 and 2002, 2007 Census of Agriculture, National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), USDA, 2009.
- Tax Implications of Forest Ownership, Siegel Timber Tax Update, National Woodlands magazine, National Woodland Owners Association, 2008 - Discusses the basic stewardship-related tax incentives for forest land.
- Timber Harvesting, America's Heartland, Episode 809, November 2012 - For more than a quarter-century, the Baker family has been cutting and hauling timber in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
- Wood Pellets Catch Fire as Renewable Energy Source, Wall Street Journal, 2009 - A global marketplace is emerging to supply the demand for wood pellets, and the southeastern United States is becoming a major exporter, with pellet factories located in Florida, Alabama and Arkansas.
- Hiawatha Sustainable Woods Co-op, Fountain City, Wisconsin - Local forest owners banded together to form a timber management, processing and marketing cooperative. Its purpose is to maximize the long-term aesthetic, ecological, economic and recreational benefits from area forest resources.
- Oregon Woodland Cooperative - Since 1981, this cooperative of woodland owners has been working together to improve, manage and market products from the forest.
- Wildwood Rustic Furnishings, Shevlin, Minnesota - Duane Shoup makes a living deep in Minnesota's North Woods by custom making split maple and bentwood custom rockers, rustic pine lab benches and more.
- The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) - AF&PA is the national trade association of the forest, pulp, paper, paperboard and wood products industry. The organization represents member companies engaged in growing, harvesting and processing wood and wood fiber, manufacturing pulp, paper and paperboard products from both virgin and recycled fiber, and producing engineered and traditional wood products. Association members include manufacturers of over 80 percent of the paper, wood and forest products produced in the United States.
- Army Corps of Engineers, Natural Resources Gateway - The Army Corps of Engineers is the steward of the lands and waters at Corps water resources projects, Its mission is to conserve those natural resources, consistent with ecosystem management principles, while providing quality public outdoor recreation experiences to serve the needs of present and future generations.
- Forest Products Society (FPS) - Supporting information exchange on the use of wood and wood-fiber resources, FPS provides its members and others in the forest industry a variety of services to further member research and goals. FPS links an international network of scholars and industry professionals. The close linkage with research enables the industry to gain the competitive advantage essential in this current intensively globalized economy.
- Forest Service, USDA - Congress established the Forest Service in 1905 to provide quality water and timber for the nation's benefit. Over the years, the public has expanded the list of what they want from national forests and grasslands. Congress responded by directing the Forest Service to manage national forests for additional multiple uses and benefits and for the sustained yield of renewable resources such as water, forage, wildlife, wood and recreation. Multiple use means managing resources under the best combination of uses to benefit the American people while ensuring the productivity of the land and protecting the quality of the environment.
- The Intermountain Forest Association (IFA) - The IFA is an organization of wood product manufacturers, forestland owners and related businesses in the northern Rockies. It develops and implements solution-oriented policies intended to provide a positive climate for forest management as well as a stable and sustainable supply of timber from public and private forestlands; works to ensure that regulations affecting member companies remain reasonable; serves as a source of information to media, the public and other interested parties on a wide variety of forestry and natural resource issues; and provides a conduit for member companies to develop cooperative relationships.
- The International Forestry Student’s Association - A worldwide IFSA promotes co-operation among forestry students and establishes links with other international organizations in areas such as forestry, environmental protection, higher education, economy and social development.
- The Society of American Foresters (SAF) - This is the national scientific and educational organization representing for forestry profession in the United States. Founded in 1900, the SAF mission is to advance the science and practice of forestry, enhance the competency of its members and use the knowledge of the profession to help ensure forest ecosystems and resources to benefit society.
Note: There are various state forestry associations and specialized wood-product groups and similar organizations that are not listed in the preceding section. Consult your Internet search engine if you wish to find a state- or product-specific group.
- Auburn University, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences - The goal of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences is to develop and maintain an outstanding faculty with the diverse backgrounds necessary to provide Auburn students with superior programs in forestry and wildlife education, research, extension and public service. The school has graduated over 2,400 forestry or wildlife graduates since the first graduating class in 1948. Accredited by the Society of American Foresters, the graduate and undergraduate forestry programs prepare students to become professional foresters in industry, agency, consulting and other situations. Additionally, the Forest Engineering program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
- Anna Maria College, Online Bachelor of Science in Fire Science - The online Bachelor of Science in Fire Science completer program from Anna Maria College provides firefighters the vital knowledge to obtain a leadership position in fire service and related fields. It is crucial to obtain advanced study and training in order to efficiently and effectively deal with emergencies. Gain a strong foundation in the technical aspects of dealing with fire and hazardous materials while developing professional and managerial skills, ethics and service.
- Cal Poly State University, Forestry, Department of Natural Resources Management - The degree program in Forestry and Natural Resources prepares students for careers in forest and natural resource protection and management. Students may specialize in recreation management, urban forestry, environmental management, watershed management and hydrology, fire and fuels management, forest and environmental practices, wildlife biology or an individualized course of study. Graduates qualify for such positions as forester and natural resource manager.
- Cornell University, Extension Forestry Program - The goal of the Extension Forestry program is to provide leadership statewide for educational, research-based programs that address the stewardship and sustainable production needs associated with the management of private, non-industrial forest land. Programs are directed toward the needs of non-industrial private forest (NIPF) landowners. Audiences include primarily NIPF owners, including maple producers, and also professional foresters, loggers and youth.
- Guide to Online Forestry Degrees - This site is dedicated to helping students find everything they need to know about getting a degree in forestry.
- Humboldt State University, Department of Forestry & Watershed Management - A degree from the Forestry and Watershed Management Department at Humboldt State can comprise an area of concentration in Production Management, Wildland Fire Management or Forest Conservation. In addition, there are specializations in Forest Soils and Forest Hydrology.
- Iowa State University, Forestry and Forestry Extension - This department is dedicated to the understanding, effective management and sustainable use of renewable natural resources through the land-grant missions of teaching, research and extension. NREM’s disciplinary focus is broad in scope, ranging from individual organisms to landscapes, from natural to managed ecosystems, from wilderness to agricultural and urban systems, from local to international environments, and from resource preservation to utilization.
- Michigan State University, Department of Forestry - Silviculture, the art and science of cultivating forests, integrates the principles of ecology, physiology, genetics, forest protection, forest engineering and economics with silvicultural techniques to ensure forest viability, productivity and future options. For effective results, silviculturists must be sensitive to both societal expectations and landowner objectives in developing prescriptions for managing forestlands.
- North Dakota State University, Natural Resources Management Program - The program addresses systems approach to managing natural resources through the biological, engineering, social and economic aspects of managing natural resources as an integrated system. Students focus in one of three areas: biotic resources, physical/earth resources or social sciences. Natural resources management majors can choose from many courses in one of the three emphasis areas.
- Oregon State University, Forestry Extension Program - The program has various educational outreach goals including helping small woodland owners meet today's competing demands on forest resources by way of offering assistance and the latest research to landowners, to promote sustainable and environmentally sound forestry practices. The group also works with forest-based industries to make them more productive and efficient by helping with information on new technologies, marketing ideas, taxes and business management.
- Online Forestry Degree - Fire Science Online recently launched career and education guides focused on public service and safety careers including firefighting, law enforcement, forestry, and paramedics to name a few. Each guide contains career and salary information, a school search tool, internships, scholarships, and other related educational information.
- University of Connecticut, Department of Natural Resources Management and Engineering - Professionals in the Natural Resources Management and Engineering field work toward resolving issues related to natural resource renewal, management and conservation and are active in the fields of forest, wildlife, and fisheries management, water resources, wetland conservation and soil and aerial photographic imagery. The mission of the department is to provide high-quality undergraduate and graduate education, to generate new knowledge by conducting research, and to provide extension and outreach programs in the field of natural resources management and engineering and environmental science.
- University of Kentucky, Department of Forestry - The Department of Forestry is an academic department in the College of Agriculture with the primary responsibility for research, instruction and extension programs in forest and wildland natural resources. Research disciplines include economics, genetics, physiology, silviculture, timber management and wood utilization. Current research programs include studies of conservation biology, ecosystem dynamics, applications of geographic information systems, population genetics and optimal management of timber stands.
- University of Maryland, Biological Resources Engineering Department - This department examines the relationships between mankind, other living things and the environment. Students and faculty are involved in a wide range of activities ranging from biomedical engineering to urban wildlife management to water resources engineering. Natural Resources Management is a separate undergraduate program with its own requirements, courses and faculty. This program offers undergraduate degrees in Plant and Wildlife Resources Management, Land and Water Resources Management and Environmental Education and Park Management.
- University of Minnesota, Department of Forest Resources - This website provides information about the teaching, research and outreach programs, the facilities and the people who work and study in UM Forestry. Research is directed toward silviculture, watershed management, urban forestry, agroforestry, resource assessment and a variety of other topics.
- University of Minnesota, Forestry Extension, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota.
- University of Rhode Island, Natural Resources and Environmental Management - Topics of study include remote sensing, resource management, watershed management, coastal ecology, urban environmental planning, fisheries and marine affairs.
- University of Vermont, Forestry Program - This program prepares students to take leadership roles in this re-emerging field. The university's Forestry Program teaches students to weigh practices; ecological impact, economic feasibility and cultural acceptance. The program attracts students who want to work outdoors, who love math and science, who learn by doing, who can embrace both the fundamentals of traditional forestry and the new technology of forestry's future.
- University of Wisconsin, Department of Forest Ecology and Management - The overall mission of this department is to advance excellence in education, research and extension related to forest ecosystems and their management through programs that integrate the biological, physical and social sciences and the humanities. The department provides a well-integrated interdisciplinary education based on science and management skills essential for leadership and service in the conservation and management of forest ecosystems.
Forest Products Laboratory, Forest Service, USDA.
Global Agricultural Trade System, Foreign Ag Service, USDA.
Sales of Forest Products, Income from Farm-Related Sources: 2007 and 2002, 2007 Census of Agriculture, National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), USDA, 2009.