American Forest Resource Council

Solutions

Climate Change

Climate change is contributing to extreme conditions that are impacting our forests and communities.  As temperatures rise, wildfire seasons are growing longer, snowpack is melting sooner, and we are experiencing extended periods of drought throughout the West.

Active forest management helps make our forests more resilient to these threats and provides natural wood products that store carbon and serve as sustainable alternatives to more energy-intensive materials.  Healthy, growing trees remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When timber is sustainably harvested, much of that carbon stays in the wood, lumber and other timber products indefinitely.

When it comes to addressing climate change, we depend on our forests to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  The U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program estimates that just under half of Oregon’s stored forest carbon is found belowground in soils, and about a third is found aboveground in live trees. The remaining carbon is distributed among roots, down wood, the forest floor, dead trees, and understory vegetation.

Yet federally-managed forests throughout the West are experiencing a widespread increase in tree mortality resulting in tens of millions of dead and dying trees that actually emit carbon.  The 2016-2017 Biennial Monitoring and Evaluation Report for Oregon’s Willamette National Forest determined the Forest sold 77.2 MMBF of timber and lost 341.6 MMBF of timber to mortality during the analysis period!  That means that nearly six times as much fiber deteriorated and emitted carbon into the atmosphere than was captured and stored in wood products.

Additional data-points computed from the Biennial Report show that in 2017:

  • Approximately 6% of the Forest’s growth was harvested for wood products.
  • Approximately 26% of the Forest’s growth was lost to wildfire or natural mortality
  • 18% of the live tree volume reduction on the Forest was due to timber harvest and wood products production.
  • 82% of the live tree volume reduction was due to either wildfire or natural mortality.

Accelerating the pace and scale of active forest management on federal lands can help reverse these troubling trends and ensure these lands do not become carbon emitters.

A range of effective active forest management tools, including timber harvesting, thinning and controlled burns, can be used to help forests better adapt to changing climate conditions. Responsibly managed forests also help to increase the net carbon dioxide absorption by reducing the risk of mortality caused by catastrophic fire, disease and insects that increase carbon-emissions.

Healthy and resilient forests can also help reduce massive, concentrated carbon emissions from wildfires. One large fire year (roughly 1 million acres) can emit up to 15 million tons of carbon dioxide.  In fact, data suggests carbon emissions from the 2020 Oregon wildfires surpassed those from the state’s energy and transportation sectors – which were previously Oregon’s largest sources of emissions.

As another example, the Rim Fire on the Stanislaus National Forest in California released over 11 million metric tons of greenhouse gas – the same level of pollution as 2,300,000 cars.

According to the University of Washington’s Forest Carbon Study, Washington’s private forests and forestry sector are a “Below Net Zero” carbon emitter. Although the processes associated with manufacturing wood and paper products emit some greenhouse gasses, growing trees and using wood products store more carbon than is emitted, reducing Washington’s carbon footprint by 12 percent.

As drought conditions persist throughout the West, active forest management can also protect, and even expand, the quantity and quality of our drinking water. In California, for example, research suggests thinning forests in the Sierra Nevada could save billions of gallons of water.

AFRC and its members will continue to be part of the climate change solution, working collaboratively with our partners and land management agencies to protect our forests, natural resources, and communities from its impacts.

Forest Health

Proactive and science-based active forest management can improve the health and resilience of our forests, and ensure they continue to provide a multitude of benefits into the future.

Over 80 million acres of our National Forests are overstocked and at risk of insect infestations and disease that contribute to severe fire. These lands need active forest management, yet currently only a fraction of these acres are treated in any given year.

A century of wildfire suppression, combined with the reduced level of active management on federal forests, have led to unnaturally dense and overgrown forests.  This intense competition among trees for water, sunlight, and nutrients have left many forests weakened and vulnerable to severe catastrophic events.

Many of our forests benefit from frequent, low-intensity fire.  Yet overstocking of trees has led to the accumulation of fuels that contribute to high-intensity fires, which burn entire stands, sterilize soils, and increase sedimentation in creeks and rivers.  As climate change continues to impact our forests, there are growing concerns among researchers that some forests may not be able to naturally regenerate after a catastrophic event.

Proactive management tools –including timber harvesting and thinning often followed by controlled burns –can be used to mimic natural disturbances that support a forest’s ecological functions while providing timber to support our forest products industry infrastructure and rural economies.  Active management tools can be used to contain disease and insect infestations before they result in massive tree die-offs, which create tinderbox conditions that are ripe for severe fire and destruction.

 

 

Wildfire

 

Three elements control wildfire behavior (spread and intensity): weather, fuel, and topography. The only one we can manage is fuel.  Proven, science-based forest management tools like logging, thinning, and controlled burns reduce excessive vegetation that fuel catastrophic wildfires.

Forest management alone does not prevent forest fires. But timber harvesting, thinning and controlled burns can be used to reduce the fuels that make fires burn hotter and faster. Other activities, including creating fuel breaks and improving the National Forest Systems roads, will give firefighters better and safer opportunities to contain fires before they grow out of control.

In addition to the loss of natural resources and wildlife habitat, recent wildfire seasons have resulted in tragic losses of lives and the destruction of thousands of homes.  It is estimated that more than 40 million homes are within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), where homes and forests intermix.  It is essential for our public lands managers to increase forest management activities within the WUI to protect our communities.

It is also important to protect vulnerable people from harmful, toxic wildfire smoke, which can worsen those with chronic heart and lung disease and result in increased deaths from respiratory diseases if we don’t act to curb large-scale wildfires though active forest management.

Post-fire recovery and reforestation on federal lands can also reduce risks in the future.  A study from the Journal of Forest and Ecology Management suggests evidence of a correlation between timber harvesting in recently burned forest stands and a reduction of woody fuel during subsequent decades. This decrease in fuel loading can lessen the impact and frequency of catastrophic wildfires for up to 40 years in some cases.

Public lands managers understand that many of our forests are in poor health and recognize the need for proactive and science-based forest management.  Unfortunately, too often, efforts to increase the pace and scale of forest management activities are thwarted by anti-forestry obstructionists and the real or perceived threat of litigation.

AFRC and its members work side-by-side with our partners and land management agencies to develop and implement projects that help improve the health of our forests and communities. We also advocate in Washington D.C. for sensible reforms that address barriers to active forest management.

Wildlife

Western forests are home to many wildlife species with many different needs. Some species depend on mature forests, while others thrive in mixed-aged and younger forests.  Yet federally-managed forests increasingly lack the diversity of forest types that many species need for quality habitat or forage.

In addition to making forests more resilient, active forest management provides land managers with tools to help create a range of healthy habitats so all wildlife can thrive.

Increasingly, many wildlife species are losing habitat from unnaturally severe wildfires and other catastrophic events.  For example, research shows that active forest management efforts that help reduce the risks of severe fire could help the Northern Spotted Owl.  Managing forests for diversity, health, and ecological productivity is critical to supporting wildlife.

By mimicking natural disturbances, forest management enhances biodiversity after treatment. It provides a mosaic of forest types and age classes across the landscape that can benefit plants and animals that depend on a broad range of forest conditions.

Young forests are underrepresented on many public lands, particularly those managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, as timber harvesting levels have dramatically declined over the last few decades. As a result, species that depend on mixed and early successional habitats are in decline due to the lack of active forest management.  For example, the Bureau of Land Management concluded in their 2016 Resource Management Plans that only 14% of western Oregon forests managed by the BLM were in a young age class (<30 years old) while 40% were in an old age class (>100 years old).

Though forest plans often direct land managers to create and maintain a certain percentage of younger stands on national forests, an overwhelming majority fail to meet this goal.  This is often due to well-intentioned, yet complex and counterproductive regulations as well as anti-forestry litigation and obstruction that prevents active forest management on public lands.

Timber harvesting often creates openings in the forest that promote the growth of food sources for wildlife and creates habitat for deer and songbirds, and other species.

Land managers and other stakeholders, including the forest products industry, are thoughtful about potential impacts to wildlife and other forest resources, when developing timber projects on public forests. For example, timber harvests are often planned to avoid sensitive mating or calving times. We also work with landowners and other stakeholders to enhance and protect fish and wildlife habitat as part of these critical timber sales and other forest management projects. AFRC members who also own private timberlands often partner with scientists and researchers, other landowners and land management agencies, and regulatory agencies to study certain wildlife species and develop best management practices

AFRC and its members advocate for policies and legislation that promote wildlife habitat enhancements on public lands. We partner with conservation organizations and others to support forest projects on public lands that protect and support a range of wildlife species.

Recreation

Forest Management

Outdoor recreation is the second-largest source of revenue for the U.S. Forest Service. Sustainable timber harvests from National Forest System lands is the first. For many reasons, forest management and recreation go hand-in-hand.

Renewable products from federal lands generate millions of dollars to maintain forest roads.  Timber harvesting also provides funding to improve campgrounds and many other recreational amenities. And forest management activities keep our public lands resilient and accessible to all.

Science-based, active forest management- including timber harvesting, mechanical thinning and controlled burns- helps promote the resiliency of our forests, reduce the risk of wildfire, insects and disease, enhance wildlife habitat, and ensure our public lands can be enjoyed for generations to come.

The U.S. Forest Service, along with other agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and state departments of natural resources, depend on active forest management to meet many economic, conservation and recreation objectives that benefit a variety of public lands users and local communities. 

The National Forest System was established in part to help meet the nation’s need for timber and wood products.  To achieve this objective, the U.S. Forest Service has historically worked with industry and local communities to establish and maintain a robust network of forest roads.

In addition to facilitating forest management work, these public roads continue to support a wide range of outdoor recreational activities to this day.  These roads also provide vital access for firefighters and first responders, as well as safe evacuation routes for local communities and public lands users during emergencies.

However, after the dramatic decline of timber harvesting on federal lands, the National Forest System road network has suffered from both the lack of active forest management as well as insufficient federal funding for this essential infrastructure.

Snowmobile Recreation

On average, the U.S. Forest Service decommissions between 1,000 to 2,000 miles of forest roads every year.  For many Americans, this has resulted in decreased access to public lands.  This is why AFRC advocates in Washington, D.C. for adequate funding for forest roads, as well as for increased active forest management activities that support road maintenance and multiple uses of public lands.

To ensure all Americans can safely access and enjoy our public lands, AFRC and our members work with public agencies to remove dead and dying trees, also known as “hazard trees,” along roads, campgrounds, and other popular recreation areas.  These hazard trees are often utilized and manufactured into quality wood products, which also supports jobs in our rural communities.

AFRC and our members work with public land management agencies to develop projects that promote the health of our forests and meet the needs of all forest users, from new trails to renewable timber.

Wood Products

Wood is nature’s building material. It is renewable, durable, climate-friendly, and essential to everyday life.

AFRC’s members proudly manufacture a diverse range of locally-sourced wood products that meet the nation’s needs.

Wood is a highly durable material for both homes and commercial buildings. When properly maintained, wood buildings can last for hundreds of years. And they can meet and even exceed building code requirements for fire safety, seismic performance, and wind resistance.

Using wood is also good for the planet. Trees and wood products have a unique ability to store carbon. As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide. When trees are sustainably harvested and used to make wood products, the carbon remains stored in the wood for the life of the product. About 50% of the dry weight of wood is carbon.

Among commonly used building materials, wood is the only truly-renewable material and has the lowest energy consumption and the lowest carbon emissions in product manufacturing. Across the product lifecycle, wood products achieve negative carbon emissions– lower than any other building material – and also requires very little non-renewable energy for their manufacture.

Due to its cellular structure, wood is also an excellent thermal insulator, avoiding sudden changes of temperature, reducing the need for heating and cooling. As an insulator wood is 15 times better than masonry and concrete, 400 times better than steel, and 1,770 times better than aluminum.

For all these reasons, architects and builders are increasingly turning to wood as a more sustainable and climate-friendly alternative. In addition to manufacturing dimensional lumber, veneer, plywood, mass timber, and other conventional products, our members are working with researchers to develop additional advanced wood products to help build the communities of the future.  In the coming decades, major cities throughout the world will feature skyscrapers made of wood.

AFRC members utilize the latest technology to ensure all parts of a tree can be used. Residual materials are often used to make hundreds of additional products including paper, medical products, animal bedding and more.

Many of our members use residual material to create renewable energy to power their own manufacturing facilities.  Some even sell this energy to local utilities, powering thousands of homes in their own communities!

Wood is also good for your health. The feelings of natural warmth and comfort that wood elicits in people has the effect of lowering blood pressure and heart rates, and increasing positive social interactions. Independent studies suggest the presence of wood is found to have an immediate effect of lowering sympathetic nervous response, which helps stress and anxiety.

Wood absorbs sound, rather than reflecting or amplifying it, and can help significantly reduce noise levels for additional comfort. Wood products within a room have also been shown to improve indoor air quality by moderating humidity.

By all measures, wood is a superior and sustainable building material. Yet the United States imports much of its wood products, including from countries with minimal forest practice and environmental standards. Importing wood products from overseas also increases the carbon footprint. We can meet more of America’s growing demand for quality wood products right here at home. To accomplish this, it is essential for our public forest lands to provide a sustainable and predictable supply of wood fiber.

AFRC and its members advocate for active forest management and sustainable timber harvesting on public forest lands in order to manufacture quality wood products that meet the needs of our society while also providing important environmental and health benefits.

Communities

Hundreds of thousands of people are either directly employed in the Pacific Northwest’s forest products industry, or have jobs that benefit from the economic activity involved in planting, growing, harvesting, transporting, and manufacturing wood products. It’s estimated that 35 jobs are supported for every one million board feet of timber processed.

Our communities benefit from timber, wood products and active forest management in many ways. In addition to providing family-wage jobs and generating economic activity, our members make positive contributions to the well-being of their communities.  

In states across the West, wages in the forest products industry are substantially higher than other industries, and those wages tend to be well above state averages, especially in rural communities.  Across the region, employment in our sector contributes billions of dollars in wages for workers and tax revenues for governments at all levels.

Our members are also actively involved in the communities where they operate, often contributing to local charities and organizations.

When AFRC partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build new homes for deserving families, our members donated volunteer hours, cash and building materials (see video).

In addition, revenue from timber sales on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands are shared with counties.  Timber dollars help pay for road maintenance, schools, public safety, public health, and many other services.

In Washington state, the state constitution requires the Department of Natural Resources to actively manage state trust forest lands for timber production on behalf of beneficiaries including K-12 public school construction, universities, libraries, fire departments and others.

Many counties throughout the West are surrounded by abundant forests that are managed by state and federal agencies.  Unlike private property, these lands cannot be taxed to sustain local services and cannot be developed to diversify local economies.  Oftentimes, sustainable timber harvests on these lands is the only true generator of family-wage jobs.  In Western rural communities, more than 50 percent of all manufacturing jobs are in wood manufacturing.

While tourism and outdoor recreation make positive contributions to rural economies, jobs in these sectors tend to be seasonal and wages often lag behind those in forestry and wood manufacturing. For example, 2018 data wages in tourism and recreation in Clallam County, WA averaged just slightly over $24,000 per year.

The well-being of our rural communities continues to be strongly connected to management of our public forest lands.  There were once many, many more family-wage jobs available in these communities thanks to timber harvesting on our federally-owned forests and in nearby mills.  A strong economy helped foster strong and healthy families, along with lower rates of poverty and unemployment.

When timber harvests were drastically reduced on federal lands in the early 1990s, our communities lost thousands of jobs along with dozens of sawmills and other businesses that were tied to our forests. And with those loses came negative impacts to the social and economic well-being of many of those communities.  That is why it is important our elected officials in Congress provide long-term solutions that help restore many of these jobs and the tax revenues they once generated through active forest management.

AFRC advocates for sustainable and predictable supplies of wood fiber on Western public forest lands to support the manufacture of wood products, which provides family wage jobs, supports our local economies, and provides revenues to sustain essential public services.