Its National Forest Products Week ‑‑ named by President Obama in recognition of the abundant value that forests bring to our environment and economy. It deserves mention here in California because of its relevance to this state.
California has more than 33 million acres of forestland. Nine million of those acres are sustainably managed by private landowners who carefully balance both the economic and environmental aspects of California’s working forests.
California forests not only provide us with clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities, but they serve as a vibrant industry in California. Our working forests pump $1.5 billion dollars into our economy every year. The forest products industry and related fields employs more than 55,000 people who work to meet our growing demand for wood products.
In fact, we use more than 5,000 products made from wood in our everyday lives.
That includes building products like lumber, flooring, fencing, plywood and cabinets; paper products like paper towels, packaging, newspapers, signs and paper plates; cleaning products like rubber gloves, sponges, broomsticks and disinfectants; personal care products like toilet paper, toothpaste, cosmetics and shampoo; entertainment products like ping pong balls, piano keys, guitars, football helmets and baseball bats, and many more products that come from trees.
As technology increases, more people are building with wood because of its green building characteristics. Wood is more energy efficient than both concrete and steel, it takes less energy to produce, and releases less air and water pollutants. And it’s more economical. A 2011 study by the USDA, calls wood the “greenest building material.”
Our demand for wood products is so great that California imports 80 percent of its supply to meet the growing demand. Yet, we don’t have to. Our forests grow more trees than are harvested every year. In fact, our foresters plant five trees for every one that is harvested to ensure we have forests for generations to come.
Trees are a natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable resource, and we grow them in abundance. Our forests have the ability to meet the demand even beyond California, and using locally sourced wood from sustainable forests is better for both the environment and the economy.
Our forests sequester more than 22 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. They serve as carbon sinks, helping to filter and clean our air. Even after a tree is harvested, that carbon continues to be stored in wood products for the rest of its useful life.
So you may be wondering, what is a sustainable forest? It’s a forest that is managed with multiple uses in mind. One that balances both the environmental safeguards and the economical productivity of a natural resource.
It’s a forest that protects our watersheds and wildlife, while maintaining the overall health of its trees. It’s a forest that is thinned to remove excess trees and reduce forest fuel on the ground to prevent catastrophic wildfire. And it’s a forest that uses harvesting techniques that minimize impacts to the environment while providing wood products and clean energy.
Well managed forests have the ability to provide jobs, sustain communities, provide clean energy, sequester carbon, protect wildlife, provide clean air and water, and provide California with the multitude of renewable wood products that we use every day.
So get out in the forest and think of all the reasons why we need to manage them in a healthy and sustainable way. They truly are our best renewable resource.