Given the disastrous and irresponsible nature of deforestation currently taking place in South America, one would be forgiven to assume that hardwood forest in North America is harvested in a similarly unsustainable manner. However, there are many characteristics of the US Hardwood Forest that make it ideal at providing high-value lumber products in a sustainable fashion, while sequestering carbon at the same time.
While environmentalists take hardened stances regarding logging and forest management, the facts are overwhelmingly in favor of the North American forest-products industry.
The North American Forest Continues Growing
Hardwood Timber in North America is highly-sustainable. As the following graphs help illustrate, timber volume has increased substantially since the earliest data was collected. What’s better, is that net growth, which equals estimated volume less the amount harvested, has steadily increased over the last 50 to 60 years.
This is in part due to the relatively small average holding of timber. Roughly 80% of the timber land in the United States is in private hands, making up just over 10 million land owners with an average timber parcel size of 25ac. Harvests generally occur once per life time of a given land owner.
The North American hardwood forest is abundant and sustainable. Forest products provide a clear environmental advantage over other processed materials such as plastic, concrete or steel which have damaging effects on the environment.
Clean and Renewable Timber
From the combined efforts of the forest product industry and private timber owners, new trees are being planted at about a 6:1 ratio to trees being harvested. This results in about 2.6 million new acres of new plantings annually.
This sort of strict management is not necessary in the hardwoods product industry. Hardwood forests self replicate prolifically and active plantings are typically unwarranted. This is due to the management and composition of the tree stands and the method of harvest.Rather than the clear-cut, re-plant model adopted by the softwood industry, hardwoods are typically select-harvested, taking the most mature trees at the peak of their carbon sequestering capabilities. Taking marked trees that have been specifically chosen ensures minimal disruption to the forest floor and canopy.
Forests produce oxygen and sequester carbon dioxide, improving air quality and taking excess carbon out of the air. By converting wood into building products, you are essentially sequestering carbon for the long term. The EPA estimates US forests remove the greenhouse gasses of about 139 million cars.
Wood composes nearly half of all raw materials used by U.S. manufacturers while the energy used to produce wood products accounts for only 4% of total manufacturing. Hardwood materials are a bargain for the environment. They have lower production and disposal costs than man-made alternatives like concrete, steel, glass and synthetics.
Hardwood is a Solid, Sustainable Choice
Wood comes from a biological source that grows, matures and is harvested. These resources have proven abundant, sustainable and renewable. When compared to alternate building materials, wood has a clear edge:
- Produces 23% more solid waste than wood
- Emits 81% more greenhouse gases than wood
- Creates 47% more pollutants in the air
- Discharges 350% more water pollution than wood
- Uses 81% more resources than wood
- Emits 34% more greenhouse gases than wood
- Releases 24% more air pollution than wood
- Discharges 400% more water pollution than wood
- Uses 11% more resources than wood
- Produces 8% more solid waste than wood
Build Green With Wood
Despite common misconceptions, there is simply no better or more environmentally neutral choice for building than American hardwoods.
…the US hardwood forest will be a source of green building materials for generations to come.The forests that create products like flooring, furniture, baseball bats, etc. are abundant, renewable, sustainable and environmentally preferable to available alternatives.
Management practices implemented by the US forestry industry are directed by a clear imperative to grow timber volume at a pace greater than harvest rates.
This directive has proven an overwhelming success. The long term viability of this wonderful natural resource has been ensured by the joint effort of government agencies and forest-industry organizations. It is clear that the US hardwood forest will be a source of green building materials for generations to come.