Forests and the forestry sector
The United States has about 6 percent of the world¿s forest area. It has the fourth largest forest estate of any nation, with about 226 million hectares of forest, exceeded only by the Russian Federation, Brazil and Canada. Forest cover has been stable for almost 100 years following a period of heavy deforestation during the 1800s.
About 30% of the land is forested, and about two-thirds of the nation¿s forests are classed as productive forests that are not legally reserved from timber harvest. About 7 percent of United States forest land is reserved for non-timber uses and managed by public agencies as parks, wilderness or similar areas.
Private forests comprise 63 percent of all forest land and 71 percent of productive forest land that is available for harvest of commercial forest products. Private lands supply 89 percent of the wood volume harvested in the United States. The forest industry, with about 13 percent of the nation¿s productive non-reserved forest land, provides 30 percent of the timber harvested, while non-industrial owners (primarily smallholders) own 58 percent of productive non-reserved forests and harvest 59 percent of wood volume.
Federal lands comprise about one-third of the country¿s land area and are administered primarily by the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Defence and Energy Departments. These lands now produce about 6 percent of the United States timber harvest, much less than 20 years ago due to effective lobbying by environmental groups against logging on public lands. About 9 percent of the United States forest land is administered by states and local governments.
Products and trade
The United States is the world¿s largest consumer and producer of forest products. It accounts for about 15 percent of world trade in forest products. Even though the forest products sector is small in comparison with the rest of the United States economy, it is significant on a global scale. The forest industry accounts for about 8.5 percent of all manufacturing jobs in the country. The value of solid wood shipments in 2000 was US$94 billion; the value of pulp and paper shipments was US$166 billion; and furniture manufacturers contributed another US$20 billion.
The per capita consumption of forest products is high, twice that of other developed countries and four times the world average. United States annual wood products consumption increased by 50 percent between 1965 and 1999, from 374 to 566 million cubic metres. Domestic forests provide for much of the demand ¿ in 1999 the United States produced 497.6 million cubic metres of forest products (including woodfuel).
Forest wildfire is the most serious forest problem, the result of a century of fire suppression and insufficient forest thinning activities. The 2002 fire season was one of the worst in American history. In August 2002, the administration announced the Healthy Forests Initiative, a programme to restore forest and rangeland health and prevent catastrophic wildfires on public lands. The initiative will expedite federal and local efforts through active land management efforts such as thinning of small trees and brush, and, where appropriate, prescribed burns.
Introduced exotic plants, animals and diseases have a long history of heavy damage to the country¿s forests. Destructive introduced pests include white pine blister rust, chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, gypsy moth and, more recently, hemlock woolly adelgid, beech bark disease and the Asian long-horned beetle. Increasing world trade in forest products (and world trade in general) increases the opportunity for such introductions. Introduced exotic animals also pose a significant threat to displace and out-compete domestic wildlife species.
Last updated: September 2003